Communication Builds Our Community

Trees Trees Trees

Series: Lake Wales Renaissance | Story 10

This is the tenth installment in the Lake Wales Renaissance series. Lake Wales City Commissioner Robin Gibson serves as Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.

Best Bang for the Buck

Trees are the best. Their mere presence improves individual property values. Collectively they improve the town's tax base as a whole. The improved value comes from the purchaser's desire to buy the advantages of appearance and aesthetics. Not only do trees increase value for subjective reasons, they also provide scientific advantages: 1) photosynthesis changes carbon dioxide into life-giving oxygen, 2) evapotranspiration reduces stormwater runoff by retaining a portion of rainfall within the tree, and 3) creation of temperature-reducing shade in our subtropical climate.

No less of a horticultural authority than our own David Price (lifetime horticulturist and president of Bok Tower Gardens) has aptly stated that trees provide the "best bang for the buck" by increasing value for much less cost than bricks and mortar.

Dover-Kohl takes Full Advantage of Tree Design

Urban planning firm Dover-Kohl's "Lake Wales Connected" plan generously provides for trees. The plan transforms the Community Redevelopment area, primarily downtown and the Northwest neighborhood, by providing for virtually every street to be tree-lined and pedestrian oriented.

Since chairing the Lake Wales downtown development commission beginning 1969, your author has made a study of downtown improvements and visited countless downtown projects. In this 51-year quest, the best and most successful downtown street and improvement design was found to be in Greenville, South Carolina – identified without knowing that Dover-Kohl served as a consultant to Greenville and played a significant role in the town's success. (The second best is Winter Park, Florida, also benefitting from a Dover Kohl design.)

Lake Wales Connected calls for much more than what would, standing alone, be a magnificent tree planting design. Unknown to most, Lake Wales was the beneficiary of a landscape plan by the iconic Olmsted firm of New York City. (Founded in the late 19th century by the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, and carried on by his sons, Frederick Jr. and John C., under the name Olmsted Brothers.) The firm was originally retained by both the Mountain Lake Community and Edward W. Bok for their magnificent landscape achievements at Mountain Lake and Bok Tower Gardens. Few know that the Olmsted firm was also retained by the City of Lake Wales for a landscape design for the town. With the advent of the Great Depression in 1929, the City was only able to implement the beginnings of its Olmsted plan. The original plans are still in existence.

Lake Wales Connected calls for the completion of the Olmsted plan for Lake Wales. Once completed, Lake Wales will take its place with Central Park in New York City, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, the campus at the University of California, Berkeley, and many others, as examples of Olmsted landscape architecture.


Acquiring and properly planting and maintaining thousands of new trees pursuant to Lake Wales Connected will be a daunting task --- a task too large for city government on its own. Fortunately, the greater Lake Wales community - about 50% of which resides outside the city limits - has demonstrated time and again that its wonderful nonprofit organizations are capable of performing functions for the community that in other places would be the tasks of government.

With respect to trees, the nonprofits are already ahead of the game. The Lake Wales Breakfast Rotary Club is now in its third year of planting and caring for a wonderful collection of young oak trees to benefit the public area around Lake Wailes containing the bike path (which will become part of an interconnected Lake Wales Trail system). The newly formed Lake Wales Heritage, Inc. has already (under the guidance of Dover-Kohl) taken the lead for the restoration of the City's Olmsted design.

All of this will be folded into the implementation of Lake Wales Connected by the Lake Wales City Commission sitting as the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency and operating in concert with Lake Wales Main Street Inc. and the Lincoln Community Development Corporation. The cooperation among these entities to this point has been exemplary.

So far, it's all ahead full.

The Next Installment: Becoming a Destination


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