By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The oaks and other trees planted in Atmore’s Houston Avery Park will soon have some company, thanks to the state’s largest provider of electricity and two local special-interest committees.
The new flora will be paid for with funds from an $875 Alabama Power Foundation Good Roots Grant that was recently awarded to Pride of Atmore Committee. The Good Roots program is a partnership between APCO, Alabama Forestry Commission and Alabama Urban Forestry Association.
The tree plantings are designed to enhance quality of life and support recreational and economic development efforts.
The trees are part of POA’s Arbor Program and are scheduled for planting within the next several weeks, said Sam Schjott, who works out of APCO’s Monroeville office but also serves as manager of the company’s Atmore facility.
Schjott presented the grant check to James McNeil, a member of the local Smart Growth Committee (SGC) who first approached other committee members about applying for the grant.
The park enhancement project evolved from the first plan McNeil came up with, one that committee members felt had too much red tape attached.
“It was Mr. McNeil’s idea,” said Dale Ash, also a member of SGC. “He talked about how we needed some trees coming in on 21, but because of ALDOT rules … I think the trees can actually be planted anywhere. Do they have to be public property?”
Jim Johnson, another SGC member, explained that restrictions exist on trees that are planted along public streets or highways.
Schjott said he believed, but would look to make sure, the grant funds had to be used for beautification of parks, playgrounds and other public areas.
“I’ll have to look into that,” he told Ash. “JU Blacksher wrote one (a grant) a few years ago and put up some fruit trees. I think it can be any kind of park or other public land, but I’m pretty sure we can’t put them on private property.”
Schjott, McNeil, Ash, Johnson and POA officials Foster Kizer and Bub Gideons attended the January 17 check presentation, which was conducted at the local park, just off MLK Jr. Drive.
The Alabama Power employee said the grant funds would buy “probably five trees.”
Atmore is one of only 40 cities, towns and school systems that were awarded a Good Roots Grant this year.