Park supporters upset about Tucker plan to relocate orchard

A sign for the fruit orchard at the Tucker Recreation Center on Lavista Road in Tucker. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — Tucker parks supporters were upset this week upon discovering the city’s plan to relocate an established, fruitful orchard to build a bocce court at the Tucker Recreation Center.

Thomas Nuhfer on Jan. 10 posted a video about the situation on Jan. 10 and said the orchard was planted at the recreation center on LaVista Road in 2016 with a grant from Atlanta Local Food Initiative.

Nuhfer was the first high school intern at Tucker Orchard Guild, planting fruit trees across the city’s public spaces, going on to earn a degree in biology and ecology.

Eleven fruit trees were planted – Paw Paws, service berries, persimmons, pomegranates and nectarines – as well as companion plants garlic, clover, strawberries said Nuhfer. More trees and herbs have been planted on site since then.

“Because fruit trees need to be planted young in order to establish themselves and avoid root damage, you essentially can’t buy fruit trees as mature and established as these,” said Nuhfer. “Over a 20-year life span, could be more, the trees could produce 2,250 pounds of fruit … that’s almost $50,000 of organically grown, nutrient rich fruit, free to families in Tucker.”

In a letter released on Jan. 10, Tucker Parks and Recreation Director Rip Robertson said, “smaller activities held in the rec center courtyard” led to discussion about expanding the space.

“We have been searching for a space to provide active opportunities for our adult/senior population. Bocce was an activity mentioned in our Parks and Rec Master Plan and has been on our agenda for some time,” Robertson wrote.

But according to the Tucker Parks Master Plan document, a bocce court was proposed for William McKinley Peters Park – not the rec center. The Master Plan calls for an expansion of a fruit tree orchard at Kelley C. Cofer Park and a renovated rec center, in addition to other projects.

Robertson said Parks and Rec engaged Roots Down, a company that consults with local governments to build community gardens, in winter 2020. Roots Down advised waiting until winter 2021 to “allow ample time to coordinate a new and more accessible location” at Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library.

The letter states Tucker Rec Center needs a renovation, including the removal of the courtyard and everything in it. It also said continuing to delay the orchard relocation would put at risk the chance of success for transplanting the trees.

Despite residents’ concerns the relocation will kill the trees, a Tucker arborist said it is possible to transfer the orchard successfully.

“It is possible to move quite large trees using the right equipment. There are companies in Atlanta who specialize in just moving trees,” said Lyle Collins, ISA certified arborist. “Transplanting is frequently done on sites being developed and improved.”

Robertson told Tucker Observer the city is working with a professional tree moving company to move the trees before first bloom. He did not say how much the project will cost.

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