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Palm tree removal a mystery

Proper notification has been made, but no one knows who wants to dig up the trees.

By JODIE TILLMAN
Published February 14, 2007


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HUDSON - Who wants to dig up the beloved palm trees?

Nobody seems to know.

The utility companies do not know. Neither does County Administrator John Gallagher nor County Commissioner Jack Mariano. Not even Al Meyer, who usually knows all things Hudson, knows a thing about this.

"It's a true mystery, isn't it?" said Meyer.

Here's what we do know: About a decade ago, a Bradenton palm farm offered to give away hundreds of small trees to any nonprofit that could pay to have them transported.

Organizers of Hudson Seafest thought: instant beautification project. The festival raised about $2,000 to have nearly 200 trees - Washingtonian palms - transported on a flatbed and planted in the right of way along Clark Street and Old Dixie Highway.

The trees grew, some as high as 12 feet, others close to 30 feet. Volunteers and county workers tended to them. They became part of the tropical landscape.

All was well until Meyer heard from a friend at Hudson Utilities.

" 'They're taking down your palm trees,' " his friend said.

A Lakeland company, Palmscapes by Design, had contacted Sunshine State One-Call, a nonprofit group that by law must be called before you dig in Florida. Sunshine State One-Call, in turn, had notified the local utility companies.

Palmscapes planned to remove the trees along Clark Street and Old Dixie Highway. The work order, which expires March 3, lists Palmscapes as the contact. It says only that the work will be performed for "Hudson Beach."

So who hired Palmscapes to remove the trees? Stacie Reel, a contact for the company, hesitated to say.

"I'm not trying to be rude or vague," she said. "As far as I know, everything is squared away."

Palmscapes owner Daniel Reel did not return a message left with Stacie Reel.

She suggested that the county would know about the trees.

County Administrator Gallagher, who had also been contacted by Meyer, said he knew nothing about the tree removal.

"We're not doing anything," he said. "We don't have any utilities out there."

Gallagher even called Palmscapes to see what he could find out. As of late Tuesday afternoon, he hadn't heard back from Palmscapes.

On down the list, the mystery deepened.

Not Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative. Not Hudson Utilities. Not Verizon or Hudson Water Works.

"I don't know why they're pulling those palm trees," said Bob Elek, Verizon spokesman.

"I'm also on Hudson Seafest," said Craig McCart, chairman of the board of Hudson Water Works. "We paid to put those (trees) in and we paid to maintain them.

"Now you've got me curious."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at (727) 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 13, 2007, 23:22:45]


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