Illegally slashed mangroves in Wilbur-By-The-Sea continue to struggle 8 months later

Article Courtesy of  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Abigail Mercer

Published September 11, 2020


Almost nine months after 500 mangrove trees in Wilbur-By-The-Sea were illegally cut, chainsawed at the waist, little growth has occurred. Where there was once eight feet of thriving mangroves stretching out across the Wilbur Boathouse, there are now hundreds of mangroves struggling to grow again, bright green leaves stretching upward acting as the only noticeable improvement from where they’d been cut down.

Ashley Gardener, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said everything was going “as expected.”

The Wilbur Improvement Association, Inc. was identified as one of three responsible parties for the alteration of the mangroves in January, DEP officials said. The improvement association is essentially a voluntary homeowner’s association for Wilbur-by-the-Sea. Also responsible was Holly Hill-based SB Tree Service, and Peter Zarcone, president of an Ocala building and roofing company and the individual that hired the landscaper.

In March, Gardener said all three responsible parties had been issued consent orders and fines: Zarcone was fined a total of $5,559 in penalties, SB Tree Service was fined $6,000 and the improvement association was fined $4,849.

SB Tree Service paid its fee, and its consent order was closed. Zarcone is currently making monthly payments in the amount of $500, and the Wilbur Improvement Association also paid its fee, as well as submitted its restoration plan and began implementing it.

Mangroves in the 4200 block of S.Peninsula Drive that were illegally cut in January.

“The plan called for 300 black mangroves to be replanted, along with 19 red mangroves, 484 spartina bakeri, and 57 spartina patens,” Gardener said. “The first quarterly report was submitted in July and it shows the site is progressing and in compliance. The site will continue to be monitored and reports will be submitted to the Department on a quarterly basis.”

An inspection report from the DEP said the mangrove trees were originally cut to about 3.5 feet tall in a stretch of just over 550 feet along the marshy area along the Halifax River’s east shoreline. Since then, they’ve hardly grown.

According to Bob Mills, president of the Wilbur Improvement Association, Zarcone came to him for permission to hire a tree trimming service, and was told that was acceptable as long as he received a permit from the county and hired licensed professionals.

“We gave a limited okay for limited trimming. They didn’t do anything correctly,” Mills said when the trees were first trimmed. “This is going to take months or even years to recover from.”

Mangroves, which are protected by the state, are known to foster important habitats for fish and birds and are considered to be of great ecological importance, which is why they’re monitored closely by the DEP.

There are about 469,000 acres of mangrove trees in Florida, according to the DEP’s website. Their importance “cannot be overemphasized,” because of their ability to cycle and trap different organisms, nutrients and chemicals through their expansive root system. In addition, roots provide homes and attachment surfaces for animals, and act as nurseries for fish, shellfish and crustaceans.