By Allan Turner
Houston, TX (October 6, 2008)- Conceding it never will have mountains nor the Mediterranean, Mayor Bill White on Monday boasted Houston is “a green city that is beautiful to look at from the air and from the ground.” White’s comments came as he announced city participation in Million Trees + Houston, a multimillion-dollar public-private partnership to plant more than a million trees in the city in the next five years.
“Our big public goal,” said White, “is to plant more trees than we ever have.”
Starting with a $750,000 budget, the city plans to plant at least 150,000 trees, starting in September, White said.
Joining in the effort are the Texas Department of Transportation, which has agreed to plant 513,000 trees on highway rights of way; Harris County, planting 275,000-plus trees; Trees for Houston and Texas Forest Service, each planting 10,000-plus trees; and corporate sponsors, management districts, and other civic groups, planting more than 150,000 trees.
Launch of the project, modeled after similar efforts in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, coincides with the loss of tens of thousands of trees during Hurricane Ike. At city parks and golf courses alone, Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner said, more than 3,500 trees were lost.
Mack Fowler of the Quality of Life Coalition in Houston said the effort would help “put Houston on the map as an extraordinary tree city.” The city’s goal, he said, is to plant the trees in five years – half the time earmarked for similar projects in the larger cities. “You’re going to see trees in a very near term,” Fowler said.
White endorsed trees as boons to the environment because they absorb carbon dioxide, aid in flood prevention, provide shade, and serve as buffers against violent winds.
White said he has solicited the participation of large businesses in the program, asking that they give their employees “the gift of trees” in the coming holidays. “I’m not saying turkeys don’t have their place,” he said, “but trees are a gift that lasts 70 to 80 years.”
This year and next, the city will match one-third of corporate donations of up to $1.5 million. Among the areas the city plans to target for tree plantings are Wayside Drive, Dairy Ashford, and Cullen Boulevard. On Cullen, the city intends to plant 4,500 trees on 38 esplanades.
White said a variety of trees in a variety of sizes, from seedlings to trees in 15-gallon containers, will be planted. “We’re going to plant like crazy from mid-September through February,” he said. White lauded the efforts of the Texas Department of Transportation, which has planted more than 600,000 trees along Houston roadways since 1999.
Houston Chronicle- A million new trees will thicken our canopy
Million Trees + Houston
Houston Tree Database