New trees worth money and sweat

By Heber Taylor
Galveston, TX (September 17, 2009)- One of the spectacular accomplishments of the people of Galveston after the 1900 Storm was creating an urban forest. Think of the oaks overhanging the streets of the East End. Think of all the greenery that provided habitat to a variety of birds, which tourists and islanders alike like to watch.

The 1900 Storm bulldozed large areas of the island to smooth sand. The vast project to raise the elevation of the entire island behind the seawall, for all its merits, was hard on trees. It’s difficult to grasp that the vast majority of all those trees that people enjoyed were planted by people who wanted to do something good for the island after that storm.
Hurricane Ike killed perhaps 30,000 trees on the island. The question is whether the tree-loving survivors of that storm can accomplish what those of an earlier generation did.
Dr. Jackie Cole, a veterinarian who is chairwoman of the Galveston Tree Committee, has been making the case that the city needs an urban forestry program. It needs, in other words, a planned effort to get back the green as quickly as possible.
Some cities allocate $2 to $5 per resident to forestry. That would be a roughly $100,000 commitment from the city. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that the council recently gave the park board $570,000 from excess funds from the convention center just to keep the tourism agency’s reserves at a healthy $6 million. We’d guess there’s far more public support for trees.
To be fair, the city has allocated money in its proposed budget for replanting trees in parks. That’s good. But what’s needed is something far broader than parks- and the small parks budget shouldn’t have to fund that broader effort. Trees are needed on public rights of way and on private property, as well as in parks and on school grounds.
Not all the money would need to come from the city. Niigata, Japan, Galveston’s sister city, has contributed $30,000, and the 25th Street Merchants has raised $9,000 for trees. But the city should provide some funding for a broader effort, which would include replanting trees along rights of way and educating regular homeowners about good practices.
Galveston’s forest is worth reviving. We’d like to see the city council discuss ways to make that happen. If you agree, nudge your representative in that direction. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to make a contribution yourself. The Tree Committee has events coming next week to give the public an overview on plans to replant this winter and to offer advice to property owners about best practices for replanting. These efforts deserve support.
WHAT: Public hearing on plans to replant trees this winter
WHEN: 5 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 823 Rosenberg Ave.
WHAT: Open house with educational programs on how to plant trees, featuring Dr. William Johnson, county extension agent
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 26
WHERE: Galveston Island Convention Center, 5600 Seawall Blvd.
Related Resources:
The Daily News- New trees worth money and sweat