LUTZ — Though a $5,000 donation by Wal-Mart has provided a reprieve for trees and shrubs once threatened with removal from a U.S. 41 median, Hillsborough County officials are looking for volunteers interested in helping to maintain the landscape.
A gathering for prospective volunteers is planned at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 29, at the Lutz Community Center, 98 First Ave. N.W.
On Sept. 30, Wal-Mart presented a check to Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful to help pay a private contractor to maintain landscaping in the seven-mile stretch of the highway median through Lutz. But the donation will not provide perpetual maintenance, so the county is seeking volunteers to assist with landscaping tasks.
Lining up the corporate sponsor was spearheaded by State Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, assisted by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, the Lutz Citizens Coalition and others.
The crape myrtles, oaks, shrubs and decorative grasses became an issue in January when some 80 trees in the median, from the Pasco County line to the North Florida Avenue apex, were tagged for removal. In response to public outcry, the county held a Jan. 24 meeting that drew 200 people to the Lutz Community Center. The country agreed to leave the landscaping in place while exploring solutions through corporate sponsors, nonprofit and volunteer groups, and civic associations.
Florida’s Department of Transportation installed the landscaping years ago. After the state determined it could not afford upkeep, the county assumed maintenance. A commercial landscaper began providing free maintenance about five years ago, but stopped in 2012.
Before the state would reassume responsibility for a median, it required the county to remove trees and shrubs and plant bahia grass. That mandate, and the county’s initial reaction, led to the outcry from area residents.
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