Flamingo Park Trees Cut Down, Neighbors Cry Foul

Flamingo Park

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Flamingo Park Trees Cut Down, Neighbors Cry Foul:

Meeting Monday evening to discuss plans

Following an outcry on social media and a flurry of contacts to City officials this week about the cutting down of some beloved trees in Flamingo Park, City Manager Jimmy Morales halted further removal until the City can review its plans. Meanwhile, the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association will discuss the issue at its meeting Monday evening.
Four Melaleuca trees were removed this past Monday as part of the Flamingo Park improvement project. By Tuesday, Morales issued a Letter to Commission in which he said, “We deeply regret the feeling of loss that this removal of these mature trees has caused our community.”
“Plans for this project were developed and designed as part of an overall plan to upgrade and renovate the park and a series of community outreach meetings have been conducted since 2014,” Morales wrote. A tree work permit was issued in October of 2017 for the removal of 11 trees, planting of 42 new trees and relocation of 13 trees. “This permit included the removal and mitigation of the Melaleuca trees, which are considered Category 1 invasive, prohibited species,” he said.

One of the Melaleuca trees removed from Flamingo Park

“While prohibited species are exempt from permit requirements under City Code, the project was designed to ensure that the canopy removed was mitigated in the form of new Florida Friendly canopy trees which are better suited for the South Florida environment. Melaleuca quinquenervia is one of the most invasive species on the Miami-Dade County prohibited species list and part of a management program spearheaded by the USDA,” Morales wrote.
In addition, he said, a recent assessment of the trees indicated they had dead or decaying branches, “resulting in a potential danger to the visitors and guests of the park.”
That said, Morales wrote the contractor did not comply with the proper procedure for removing the trees and, as a result, the community was taken by surprise. “As a requirement of the tree work permit, the contractor is required to tag and identify all trees planned for removal, in advance. This requirement allows the tags to serve as a visual notice to the stakeholders. It explains the reason for removal, the permit information and the mitigation efforts,” Morales said. “Unfortunately, the Melaleuca trees were not tagged prior to removal.”
The City issued a Notice of Non-Compliance to the contractor and “directed [the company] to cease all tree removal activities until such time as the Administration can further evaluate the justification for the removal of any additional trees,” Morales said.
“Moving forward, any additional trees proposed for removal or relocation as part of the Flamingo Park Park-Wide Improvements project will be properly tagged before removal activities occur,” he noted. “In addition, advanced notification through advisories or project updates will be provided to the community and other stakeholders.”
“The Administration has taken this opportunity to reevaluate its internal processes related to tree removal. Urban Forestry will hold a special training for city staff related to the tree permitting process and tree health,” Morales wrote. In addition, the Capital Improvement Projects Group (CIP) will update its standard operating procedures for tree removal “to ensure that the community is properly notified when trees are required to be removed during construction.”
Eventually the comments on social media became mixed as more residents weighed in on the invasive nature of the trees and a desire for more shade cover from different species of trees.
The Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association will discuss the tree removal at a meeting Monday evening starting at 5:30. It will be held in the Flamingo Park Tennis Center. 
The 42 new trees that will be planted, according to Morales, include Gumbo Limbos (3), Verawood (6), Bridal Veil (9), Pigeon Plum (5), Orange Geiger (4), Wild Tamarind (14), and Mahogany (1). They will be installed in the next 30-60 days.

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