Volunteers gathered early Saturday morning to plant more than 60 native trees at the HCC Plant City Campus as part of the wetland and stormwater enhancement project.
Last July, the community gathered at the Plant City Commons Community Garden and Botanical Treasure Garden to bear witness to the unveiling of a small, but monumental treasure nestled away among the trees.
A small trickle in the overgrowth was discovered to be one of the many headwaters that contribute to the Tampa Bay Watershed, thanks to the efforts from employees with the City of Plant City and members of the garden.
The recognition of that waterway is continuing to grow. On March 7, a group of enthusiastic volunteers gathered at Hillsborough Community College across the street from the garden and donned work gloves, rubber boots and heavy jackets to combat the brisk breeze.
The group, armed with shovels and pitchforks, was there to plant a variety of trees and remove pesky plants along the creek that flows out of the Botanical Treasure Gardens’ wetland through the campus and on toward Tampa Bay.
“We’re here this morning to remove invasive plants and to plant native wetland trees along the creek that takes a 49-mile journey to Tampa Bay,” William Moriaty, president of Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort, Inc., said. “Be very slow and deliberate, and let’s do our best to make an impact with the time we have today.”
Before the group set off, Moriaty took a moment to give a history lesson of the area and had a humorous Q&A with the attendees. Those who answered correctly were awarded native wild flower seed packets, and the hardest question came with the grand prize of a stuffed penguin named Dreamy Huggins.
The group was quizzed on who Plant City was named after, what the mascot of HCC was, how long the trek from the Botanical Gardens to Tampa Bay was for the water stream, what mode of transportation Henry B. Plant brought to central Florida and what Plant’s middle name was. The group then watched as Moriaty demonstrated how to properly plant the trees throughout the area.
The work zones were split into four sections with various degrees of difficulty. One was of a low level and simply required the planting of a few trees and small plants. The second was the most difficult and heavily focused on removing invasive plants as well as some tree planting, including the planting of a bald cypress. On the other side of the school was the third zone, which was an upland planting area where 12 trees and 30 small saw palmettos were put into the ground. The fourth area was around the retention pond in the back of the campus and 37 trees were slotted to be added to the location.
From there, the groups split up and the volunteers began filling water cans, digging holes and getting the roots of the trees perfectly aligned in the holes. Wheelbarrows filled with invasive plants that had been meticulously removed were carted back and forth to a dumpster on site, and before long the area looked spick and span.
Funding for the trees to be planted came from a donation to the Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort, Inc. by C & S Wholesale Grocers, who have a major distribution center along Jim Johnson Road in Plant City. Moriaty also took a moment to thank Dr. Martyn Clay, campus president of HCC, Dr. Peter Sleszynski, an Environmental Science instructor at HCC, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Karen Elizabeth president of the Plant City Commons Community Garden and Botanical Treasure Garden, Sharen Spires with the City of Plant City and Tree Inc.