SOUTH TAMPA – Bobby Hicks Park will get $12,600 worth of sprucing up and additional trees, thanks to a federal grant awarded the Tampa Federation of Garden Club Circles. In partnership with Greenworks Inc., the federation will buy and plant several dozen native trees in the park at the northeast corner of Mango and Manhattan avenues, across from Robinson High School. Arborist Jason Zysk, Greenworks’ owner-operator, will plant 40 native trees – nine different species – in the natural setting of the park, which includes 25 acres of water divided into two ponds, a 170-foot fishing pier, a 6,000-square-foot community center, swimming pool and playground. “We’re also going to correctively prune defects in existing trees,” Zysk said. “A lot of the trees were planted farm-or nursery-style, in rows,” he said. “And a lot are in bad shape from being staked, and have bad structural branching, especially the maples.”

Zysk also will remove Brazilian pepper trees, an invasive species. Sweet bay magnolias, bald cypress and pond cypress will be added to the hundreds of slash pine, longleaf pine, oaks and red maple trees planted at the 40-acre park in 2007. The property has been a city park for more than 30 years, but from 1967-73, the site was a landfill. The ponds were borrow pits, created in the early 1960s when crews hit a freshwater spring while removing fill dirt for projects at MacDill Air Force Base, city records show. Since 1998, the pond has been part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Urban Fisheries Program, stocked with bluegill, crappie, channel catfish and largemouth bass. In the late 1960s, the site was named Bobby Hicks Park after a former outdoors writer and sports editor at The Tampa Tribune. Later, Bobby Hicks Pool was built at the park. The project will increase the urban tree canopy, enhancing the environmental and health benefits trees provide, according to the Forest Health Improvement Initiative Grant Program. Funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, intended to put Americans back to work and help rejuvenate the economy. Tampa’s City Council on June 3 passed a resolution supporting the garden club’s grant application. The trees have been ordered, with planting scheduled this month, followed by a park grand reopening ceremony, probably in August, Zysk said.

Reporter George Wilkens can be reached at (813) 259-7124.

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