Seeds of Knowledge
On the last Saturday of each April, David Poplawski is usually the first one to arrive at City Hall to start working the city’s annual Arbor Day Free Tree Giveaway. A landscape inspector with the city for 15 years, he’s seen the event grow along with public anticipation for the early-morning tradition.
“I’m the first one there because I have to relieve the police [who guard the trees and plants overnight],” Poplawski says. “People start lining up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and the event doesn’t even start until 8 o’clock.”
At the annual giveaway—always held the last Saturday in April—people aren’t lining up for trees alone. During the event’s first few years, the city gave out only trees, not plants, along with an informational brochure about tree planting. Over the years, it has grown to educate attendees on green living, conservation and other related topics with education booths. City urban forester Sharon Vollmer says a new information booth this year will teach attendees what to plant to attract birds.
“I think people who come for the first time are really surprised about how much fun it is to visit these stations and get engaged in a conversation about how to eradicate invasives or all about native plants, beneficial insects and butterfly gardening or creating a naturescape,” Vollmer says.
The event also includes a vendor section with community representatives such as Home Depot, the Broward Beekeepers Association and master gardeners who talk to attendees about a variety of green topics. One of these is the Happy Hoofers chapter of the Florida Trail Association. Chartered in 1983, the chapter is made up of volunteer members who help maintain 85 miles of Florida National Scenic Trail (starting at Alligator Alley in Big Cypress National Preserve and ending at the south end of Lake Okeechobee) and host monthly education programs, hikes and camping trips.
Kay Ferrara, chair of the Hoofers, says the giveaway ties into one of their main goals: educating the public. “It’s for people to appreciate where they live,” Ferrara says. “And also educate that we have more in Florida other than Disney World, and there’s a whole world out there that affects us.”
Vollmer says the Happy Hoofers, who will have a table at the giveaway for the sixth time this year, are a perfect fit. “They’re promoting enjoying nature, going on hikes and becoming familiar with Florida’s flora and fauna, and it ties in well with our event because we give away a lot of native trees,” Vollmer says.
Kathleen Bonvouloir [pictured above, right, with Happy Hoofer member Esther Muram], can testify to the importance of educating the masses at the tree giveaway. The Happy Hoofers’ secretary has been involved with the group with her husband for about eight years and has staffed a table at the giveaway for three years. She usually starts her conversations with the attendees—already inclined to be nature appreciators—by saying, “So, do you like to hike?”
“It’s surprising how many people don’t know about us [and that] Florida actually has this trail that you can actually hike on,” Bonvouloir says, referring to the state’s 1,300-mile trail, which stretches from Big Cypress National Preserve to Pensacola Beach. “They say, ‘Hike in Florida? I don’t believe it. I can’t believe there’s an actual trail.’ ”
It’s this combination of community, education and, of course, free trees, that has made the Free Tree Giveaway one of Creek’s most anticipated events.
“They start contacting us early: ‘Are you going to do the tree giveaway? What’s in store?’” Vollmer says. “They get it on their calendars. They look forward to it.”
Arbor Day Free Tree Giveaway
What: More than 500 trees and 1,300 plants from Homestead-based BVA will be given out at the 18th annual giveaway, which promotes Creek’s goal to expand the city’s tree canopy and help residents create wildlife habitats. The event is open to residents who can show proof of residency. Limits are one tree and two plants per household.
When: April 28, 8 a.m.-noon
Where: Coconut Creek Government Center, 4800 W. Copans Road
About the Happy Hoofers
The Happy Hoofers hold monthly meetings and outings that are open to members of the public. Past informative programs have included presentations on sea turtles and a presentation by the hosts of the Animal Planet show, “Gator Boys.” The Happy Hoofers also host outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping and kayaking, along the Florida Trail from September to June.
When: The second Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Fern Forest Nature Center, 201 Lyons Road S., Coconut Creek
The last Thursday in April, Coconut Creek observes Arbor Day with a proclamation and tree planting ceremony done in partnership with a community organization. This year, the Rotary Club of Coconut Creek partnered with the city to dedicate 17 cypress trees to the victims of the Parkland shooting at the lake bank behind City Hall (3600 W. Copans Road) on April 26 at 10 a.m.