Tree removal underway in Galveston

July 8, 2009 3:32:04 PM PDT
Hundreds of old historic trees are being torn down Wednesday in Galveston. Not everyone is happy about it, but it's a step the city says it needs to take as it continues to recover from Hurricane Ike.

The city started cutting down trees in its public park. Over the next couple of weeks, it will move on to the airport, city building and local right of way.

With each tree that falls, Yolanda Moran says her heart breaks a little more.

"It's really sad. I knew it was coming, but watching it happen..." said Moran as her eyes welled up.

She grew up on Galveston Island where she remembers trees once formed canopies over her neighborhood streets. Within the next two weeks, city crews will rip out as many as 11,000 dying and damaged trees from Ike's salty storm surge.

For Moran, it is a difficult loss to accept.

"Have you ever had that empty spot right here when you're hurting and you've lost someone? It's just an emptiness right here," Moran said.

A forester with the Texas Forestry Service, Pete Smith, is one of the unlikely executioners, deciding which trees will come down.

"This is as sad an event as I've seen in my career," said Smith. "We've got a minute or two to look at a tree and really decide what the future of that tree is."

Even after ten months, Smith admits he would like to give the trees more time to recover, but the city is working against a deadline of September 12 to qualify for 100% reimbursement from FEMA.

"It's hard to let go, but we need to move forward," said Smith.

Moran says she doesn't know what other option the city has, but that doesn't make this any easier.

"I know it was Ike, I know there's not much we can do, but we feel so powerless," said Moran.

Smith says the replanting of trees could start this November but, it will likely be at least ten years before we see anything resembling what Galveston used to have.

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