Many trees have been lost on Audubon International members sites along the coastal areas in the last few years due to the numerous devastating hurricanes and tropical storms in those parts of the country.  Seeing those trees toppled down has been heartbreaking for staff and residents that spent many hours and dollars preserving them during the development process.

One of the greatest assets of Indian River Club (IRC) in Vero Beach, Florida, has always been the extensive tree coverage on their nearly 300 acres.  Preservation efforts during project construction incuded moving and transplanting several hundred trees that were endangered by golf course construction or future real estate development.  The impact of the hurricanes and the residual stress to trees resulted in the loss of more than 900 trees over three years, with over 700 trees coming down on three golf holes.  Another lasting impact from these storms has been the attack of Pine Borers on the weakened pine tree population.  Replacing those downed trees, many of which were large specimen trees, proved to be a long and costly process.

While IRC had an annual budget for replacing the casualties, it would have taken over ten years, without future hurricane/storm loss, to recover from those trees losses.  As replacement moved along slowly, IRC club members began to ask how they could help to accelerate the tree replacement process, which is actually what led to the development of their Tree Program.

A long range tree replacement plan, headed by Superintendent Mitchell Clark, started with a map designating locations needing trees and the types of trees that were needed.  The plan not only considered what had been lost so far  but also anticipated future losses and needs.  The IRC Tree Program incorporated the following principles:

1. Provide a plan that works in concert with the Club’s long range plan and consistent with their status as a Certified Signature Sanctuary

2. Maintain a list of trees and plants that are proposed for planting

3. Designate areas for planting with a palette of approved trees and other plants.

4. Provide a basis for ongoing funds for the maintenance, health and safety of the trees.

5. Minimize the effect trees have on greens, fairways and tees while preserving the essential character of the golf course

6. Systematically remove non-native species of trees and plants from the golf course

Based on these and other principles, A Master Site Tree Plan was developed and posted so that residents and club members could see where trees were needed.  Then each person wishing to purchase a tree had the opportunity to designate their contriubtion to a certain area. Members then submit a contribution for a specific tree and/or specific location.  Otherwise the contribution will supplement the superintendent’s tree budget.

One important component of the Tree Program at IRC is the dedication of Memorial Trees or Trees of Recognition. Friends and family can make a contribution for the purchase, planting, and a plaque in memory of a loved one. Wishes are expressed for the type and location of these trees and accommodated by the superintendent when possible. Any excess funds from these wishes are held in the Tree Fund and applied for the future maintenance of the tree.  Similarly, trees can be dedicated for any person or group. 

What began as an attempt to replant the tree population to the look that was remembered by IRC members, turned into a wonderful way to remember special people as well.  If you are having difficulty in replacing trees that were downed by recent or past storms or by disease, you might consider trying what the folks at Indian River Club did.  It is very inspiring to ride through that property now and see how many new beautiful, healthy trees are dedicated.  If you are interested in seeing more, go to IRC’s website at www.indianriverclub.com

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