TAMPA — In Old Hyde Park, as in many of Tampa’s older neighborhoods, the canopy of mature trees is a point of pride for residents.
Laurel oaks, many of which were planted when the neighborhood first flourished in the early 20th century, have stood tall and provided shade for decades. The scenic neighborhood even is a popular location for commercial photographic and video shoots.
But with many of the trees reaching the end of their lifespans, Hyde Park Preservation Inc. is working with the city to remove and replace them.
Members of the neighborhood association this year have coordinated with officials in the city’s natural resources department to remove and replace about 100 dead or diseased trees lining neighborhood streets.
“Instead of trying to fight that reality, we’re trying to be proactive,” said Harold Walker, the Hyde Park Preservation representative working with the city on the project.
Unfortunately the stately old trees are dying and have to come down, he said. City workers already had begun removing them, one by one.
“Common sense said that the rest would be taken down,” Walker said. “We decided, ‘Let’s not wait for them to be taken down; let’s go ahead and replant them.’”
Sixty-two trees have been removed from Old Hyde Park since last year, city officials said, and more than 20 still need to be removed. The project team has mapped out 100 spots on which to plant new live oak trees near where the old laurel oaks stood, Walker said.
Live oaks have a longer lifespan than laurel oaks, and will grow quickly and provide the leafy canopy of which Old Hyde Park residents are so proud, he said.
“Certainly, the trees are a signature feature of Hyde Park,” he said. “We’re hoping the next generation can enjoy them.”
The city is providing the new trees through its Treemendous Tampa program, which provides free trees to residents and neighborhood associations. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has challenged the program to add 1,000 trees on city land each year.
Earlier this month, the neighborhood association’s board of directors allocated $15,000 to buy oak trees more mature than the ones typically provided by the Treemendous Tampa program.
“It takes a while to get trees back to that level of beauty,” said Cindy Ramm, president of Hyde Park Preservation. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”
And more trees will have to be replanted as years pass.
“At least there will be something that will be growing in their place,” she said.
Homeowners association members hope their cooperative effort with the city will be a model for other Tampa neighborhoods.
For Hyde Park residents, the trees help give the historic neighborhood the “southern charm” for which it is known, Walker said.
“I think anybody from Tampa knows that this is Tampa when they come to Hyde Park,” he said. “It’s kind of a unique neighborhood.”
Ramm agreed: “The trees are important because it’s the character of the neighborhood. It just gives a nice, quiet feeling in a very urban area.”