Dead trees being removed at Memorial Park

November 15, 2011 9:51:27 AM PST
We have an alert for walkers, joggers, and bikers who work out at Memorial Park. You may have to adjust your routes as popular trails are being closed for tree removal.

You can hear crews removing trees right now. In all, Memorial Park will lose 2,800 trees. No one likes it, but it's another big picture effect of our ongoing drought.

There's an unfamiliar sound echoing at Memorial Park that's less than peaceful. It's a sound runners and cyclists will just have to get used to for now.

"It's not like it used to be," said Rene Cano, a 15-time marathon runner.

Cano has run hundreds of miles on these tree-lined trails. Recently he's noticed the landscape has changed...

"Quite sparse back there right now. Used to be a lot of trees; now you see all the fallen trees back there. It's a travesty," Cano said.

That travesty is a side effect of our unprecedented drought. Lack of rain has killed thousands of trees. Now the city of Houston's Parks and Recreation Department hired contractors to identify, tag and start to remove them.

"This is devastating to us. Just beyond devastation. We pride ourselves on planting trees," said Joe Turner, Director of Houston's Parks and Recreation Department.

Turner says there was no way to prevent the loss. But that's hard to imagine for cyclist John Hollingsworth who was surprised to learn he'll have to reroute until his bike path reopens.

"I just think they could've done more to save the trees instead of having to cut them down later because this costs money too," said Hollingsworth.

Approximately $4.5 million. And the plan is to recycle as much of this pine as possible.

"The good news is trees grow. The bad news is it takes a lot longer. But they will recover," Turner said.

Still, Memorial Park won't be the quiet, shady haven it once was, at least not anytime soon. For runners like Cano that will make for a less than desirable marathon training season.

"It is terrible. It's not as pretty as it used to be," he said.

So you'll only be able to access the picnic loop before 8am or after 4pm while they're working on this section. Once this area is clear, crews will move to the Seymour Lieberman Trail which is that main three-mile loop we all like to run.

Officials say they hope to have the work done by mid-January to early February.

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