Trees, Lakes and Community. To me, these three things make Windermere what it is. When people visit my home in downtown Windermere for the first time, the first remark I often hear is, “Wow! All the trees!” Windermere is officially an “urban forest” and a “Tree City,” with a wealth of historic and habitat trees.
Historic trees provide unique ambiance and connection with nature. Trees are money, according to an article in the Nov. 28 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Washington, D.C., Developer, Jack Perkins, was quoted as saying, “You can’t go out and buy a 50- or 75-year-old oak tree.” That goes double or triple for the many 50-, 100-, and 150-plus-year-old trees in Windermere.
Trees, parks and ponds provide habitats for wildlife. Windermere has 10 tree-filled parks teeming with birds, mammals and reptiles. Bird Island, in Lake Butler, hosts thousands of birds — eagles, osprey, herons, pelicans, anhinga — and many reptiles. Bird Island is owned by the Audubon Society. In the interest of preserving the habitat from overuse and abuse, Audubon management has expressed an interest in having the town of Windermere annex the island.
Windermere works hard to protect its urban forest. Through its official tree ordinance, the town strives to balance the rights and needs of property owners and developers with the community values and the Tree City status that the town has earned. The ordinance provides for maintenance of the urban forest and has provisions for loss mitigation and for fees and penalties for infractions. A Tree Protection Guide provides standards to be followed during construction and general information on the dollar value of trees. Through its annual Arbor Day event in January, the Town of Windermere provides potted trees at no cost to town residents and at nominal cost to non-residents.
We are fortunate to have passionate and motivated community leaders, a responsible town government and a broad and talented volunteer base in our town. It takes dedication and perseverance by proponents, plus recognition and compliance by residents and developers to keep us from losing the incredible nature of our urban forest. Educating the public, public servants, contractors and homeowners on the value and issues related to our trees is a continuing responsibility of our Tree Board, chaired by Theresa Schretzmann-Myers. The Windermere Garden Club and the Tree Board and Parks and Recreation committees work together with the town management, administration and maintenance to keep Windermere such a delightful place to live.
Sometimes trees have to go to make way for that dream house. But they don’t necessarily have to go to the shredder. According to Richard Gonzalez, property manager, tree proponent, and Windermere Town Council member, there is an unprecedented shortage of plantable trees throughout Florida. That 15- or 20-foot tree that’s in the path of progress may be worth $1,500 or more if it is removed properly.
Developers can improve their bottom line and their image by accommodating historic and habitat trees in their plans — thereby maintaining the feel, the value, and the history that the trees of old bring to life. The planned Windsong development, along Maguire Road, presents an opportunity for creation of unique homesites with mature or historic trees. Homeowners can enjoy the ambiance that great and historic trees provide while improving the resale value of their property and providing a habitat for wildlife.
The Windermere Tree Ordinance and Tree Protection Standards are available on the Document Center portion of the town website.