Community Tree Recovery Distribution for those impacted by Michael

By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 12, 2019

Bristol, Fla. (WCTV) –

Over in Bristol Florida, the Florida Forest Service along with Liberty County's 4-H spent their Saturday morning distributing trees to those impacted by Hurricane Michael. The hope is to help their community get their lawns and gardens back in tip top shape, restoring trees where old ones once stood.

Since January the forestry department has distributed over 11,000 trees to Florida residents in all counties in the Sunshine state impacted by the storm.

Ralph Whitefield says he is a lucky one. His house braved the storm, however his trees did not, "Trees are a lot more important than we realize."

The Bristol native lost 32 trees during Michael. Saturday morning he had only one thing on his mind. Leaving with a Crab Apple Tree in his hand, "I am going to plant this tree in a special spot and everyone will know it will be one year after Hurricane Michael and well watch it, take care of it. It will be a memento of the Hurricane."

While these trees serve as a reminder for some, for Steve Oswalt they are about fresh starts, "Myself I lost a bunch of trees in my yard and just trying to start from zero, clear everything out and return to normal."

Trees are what Will Liner, the Urban Forestry Program Manager calls "prized in the Panhandle." It is not just because they are essential to the air we breathe, beneficial to our ecosystem, and has beautiful canopy. It's for the meanings they hold, "A lot of times there is that personal connection, a tree that was maybe in your yard that you swung in when you were a child. Maybe it commemorates something like a wedding. Maybe you planted it to remember someone who has passed away. We lost a lot of those trees during the storm and this is an opportunity to start making new memories."

With over 500 trees, residents are sure to leave with their hands full. The 25 year resident, Oswalt hopes these trees help to 'spruce' up the area, "All of our yards are kind of impacted one way or another and we are just trying to get something to make you feel good about your outdoor yard."

Now, residents are ready to plant and watch their trees grow.