By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Oakland County turned 200 this year. To celebrate, the county is gifting 20,000 oak seedlings to communities around the county, including Oxford, through its Bicentennial Oak Tree Program.
Oakland was organized on March 28, 1820, 17 years before Michigan became a state. The county’s population was 330 people.
According to the county, “The oak tree is the symbol of Oakland County and the bicentennial is cause for celebration. The oak wilt disease has ravaged native oak trees in our communities, creating an urgency to rebuild and enhance our local natural resources.”
Oxford Village received 75 oak seedlings last week. The seedlings are 12 to 18 inches tall with approximately 6 inches of root.
Village Manager Joe Madore wants to plant some in Scripter Park, one or two in Centennial Park and a few on the Polly Ann Trail. They hope to share the rest (50 or so) with residents. But, with coronavirus restrictions, people will not be able to come by the Department of Public Works to pick them up.
“(The seedlings) are very susceptible to cold weather and wind and drying out, so we don’t want to just drop them off like a newspaper and have them sit there for a day and a half and be no good,” Madore said.
The seedlings are planted, temporarily, behind the DPW. “We hope to be able to have residents re-transplant them in the fall, or the next appropriate time of year for transplanting,” he said.
Meanwhile, Oxford Township received 25 white oak seedlings. Oakland County Commissioner Mike Spisz (R-Oxford) and his daughters, Madison and Mya, planted the seedlings in the nursery at Seymour Lake Township Park on May 20.
“I think it’s a great program to celebrate the county’s 200th anniversary,” Spisz said. “I’m glad to see Oxford Township participate.”
The seedlings will stay in the Seymour Lake Park nursery until they grow big enough and strong enough to be planted elsewhere, a process that should take five years, according to Park Superintendent Jeff Kinasz.
Oak trees live up to 200 years. White oaks can grow 50 to 80 feet tall and are less susceptible to oak wilt, which is lethal to trees in the red oak family. Oak wilt is caused by a fungus which prevents water from moving through a tree.
Oaks provide food and shelter for wildlife, promote pollinators, cast shade to cool the ground, filter air, prevent soil erosion with its canopy and stabilizing root system, and improve water quality.
By James Hanlon