Jefferson Tree Group Seeks Cash: Median Beautifiers Solicit Donations After Funds Cut
Published October 2, 2009 By JOSH HIXSON
“You don’t want a $100 tree in a $5 hole” is a basic axiom of planting.
The city of Dallas’ Urban Forestry website has the same quote in large bold type near the top of its page detailing the proper way to plant a tree.
So why has the city left the Jefferson Median Beautification Project high and dry when it comes to funding the first phase of planting along Jefferson Boulevard’s generous median from Sunset High School to the Cockrell Hill city line?
The short answer is that the Jefferson Median Beautification Project’s “green” got left on the threshing floor as a part of sweeping budget cuts at Dallas City Hall.
According to project coordinator Van Johnson, the city sent him an e-mail in June stating it could no longer could afford the $2,000 — provided through MOWmentum funds — it would take to plant the first 32 trees that would cover the blocks east and west of North Hampton Road.
Under the city’s MOWmentum program, volunteers who adopt a stretch of right-of-way, taking responsibility for maintenance and landscaping, can be reimbursed for certain costs. The city had indicated as early as December 2008 that it would be able to foot the $2,000 bill for planting and watering.
“I’m sending this email to give you an update,” states the June e-mail from Crystal Lee, a department of street services employee. “At this time the funding for the MOWmentum Program has been cut due to budget constraints. Applications will still be accepted but no reimbursements will be issued if you’re applying for MOWmentum Funds. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”
Lee was unavailable for comment as of press time.
The majority of the money would have gone toward an auguring machine required to plant the trees in the limestone and chalk that lies underneath North Oak Cliff’s top soil. Now Johnson is spearheading efforts to raise the money through public donations. He said the Jefferson Median Beautification Project is already halfway to its goal.
“We are hopeful. We set up a PayPal account, and we did get quite a few donations,” Johnson said.
Among the estimated $1,000 in donations already gathered is $250 from the city’s Urban Forest Advisory Committee. Chairman Steve Houser said that while committee members have had to sit on the sidelines for the city’s budgeting process, they’ve been using a separate nonprofit fund to pick up some of the slack.
“The committee is established to help this kind of effort. [The Jefferson Median Beautification Project] has jumped through all the hoops. They have done all the right things. It’s really a shame to see the effort side-tracked due to lack of funds from the city,” Houser said.
After the first phase is completed, Johnson said the Jefferson Median Beautification Project is counting on meeting better soil conditions the rest of the way.
“We are hoping we get to an area where it is not as rocky. And if it’s not as rocky, we will dig by hand,” Johnson said.
The city is providing the trees free of charge through its reforestation program, which requires developers who remove trees to plant replacements or pay for the planting of new ones.
The Jefferson Median Beautification Project still plans on planting in late October or early November.