A suggestion raised by neighbors during a City of Gainesville workshop nearly two years ago is literally bearing fruit. This month, the city unveiled its Edible Groves project in an effort to increase access to healthy food. Staff has begun planting a variety of fruit- or nut-bearing trees at two city parks, with plans for a third site along a strip of publicly-owned land.
Groves in Smokey Bear Park in northeast Gainesville and Fred Cone Park in east Gainesville have been planted, and an area known as Bountiful Boulevard, located along the 4200-4300 block of SW 40th Blvd., will be planted in the coming months.
Among the types of trees planted to date are chestnut, kumquat, loquat, mulberry, orange, nectarine, persimmon, peach, pear, pecan, and tangerine. When completed, Smokey Bear Park will be home to more than 70 specimens, with an additional 50 trees at Fred Cone Park. Dozens more are planned for Bountiful Boulevard.
“Just like our community gardens, these ‘edible landscapes’ are one more way the city is working to build a sustainable community for the future,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said. “The trees not only provide a healthy, locally grown source of food, they offer shade, clean the air we breathe and help increase the diversity of species in the area. The benefits are countless.”
City staff and volunteers from Keep Alachua County Beautiful will tend the groves. They expect all trees to fruit this year, with the exception of the citrus, loquat and nut trees.
“We hope our neighbors will love coming to the groves and picking fruit to enjoy for themselves. We ask that they leave some for the next neighbor,” said civic collaboration specialist Karissa Raskin.
Signage at each location provides details about the Edible Groves project through a QR code that links to its webpage. The project is funded by the City’s Tree Mitigation funds and Wild Spaces & Public Places.