Town reaches milestone by planting 700th tree

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Pictured (l-r) are an unidentified representative of the Pelican Bay Homeowners Association; James Popadak, the property manager for Cantamar; resident Tatiana Walton; Councilmember Peggy Bell; Mayor Paul Vrooman; Councilmember Tim Meerbott; landscapers from Groundskeepers Inc. and Public Works director Rafael Casals.

Officials and staff of the Town of Cutler Bay conducted a special ceremony on Oct. 28 to commemorate the planting of the 700th tree in an ongoing program to beautify the community and add to the “greening” of the area.

A Street Tree Master Plan was created by the town council in the years following incorporation in 2005. That plan called for establishing a program of planting Florida native trees throughout the community.

There was a goal of planting more than 270 trees along the swale areas of Cutler Bay each fiscal year, and a financial commitment has been made in each budget to reach that goal.

Besides improving the appearance of roadways throughout town the intent also was to “help foster a sense of community and encourage homeowners to further beautify their homes,” said Rafael Casals, Cutler Bay’s director of Public Works.

Mayor Paul Vrooman was quick to acknowledge the work done by Casals and town manager Steven Alexander regarding the tree planting program.

“The staff deserves a lot of credit,” Vrooman said. “This was the vision of Steve Alexander and Ralph Casals, to put us into the Tree City USA program. They knew that we wanted to be green and they brought that to the table.

“This is just one of many things they’ve given us that we’ll be able to look at decades from now, that will change the face of Cutler Bay. It’s a footprint that they’ve been able to make for us. It’s a character-changing thing.”

Vrooman compared it to the foresight shown by the planners of Coral Gables in establishing so many tree-lined streets and giving that city the special character it has.

“They [Alexander and Casals] wanted to do that for Cutler Bay,” Vrooman said. “They’re the ones who made that happen. It was not my idea or the council’s idea, it was the staff’s idea. Fortunately, the council has been smart enough to listen to the staff because they’re that good. So my hat’s off to them.”

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