Bayou's loss is park's gain

February 25, 2009 5:36:30 PM PST
A local bayou is being widened, which is a process that typically means tearing down many trees. But that's not the case this time. An effort to find a new home for dozens of trees, some of which are decades old, is underway.

Outside the old golf clubhouse in Hermann Park, there is a stump where a stately tree once stood. It's one of some 300 that toppled during Ike, changing the treescape in Houston's flagship park.

"The park will be 100 old in 2014 and some of the pine trees were some of the original trees from when the park was a pine forest and it was really heartbreaking to see them snapped in half or falling over," said Doreen Stoller with the Hermann Park Conservancy.

But not far away on Brays Bayou, Harris County Flood Control is widening the waterway. Often trees in the widening path are clear cut. Those that can be saved are sometimes moved to flood control right of way. But this time, the agency opted to take a greener path and give some away to a neighbor.

"We didn't see why we should just clear the trees and let them go be harvested when we could spend a little bit more money and have them transplanted," said Heather Saucier with Harris County Flood Control. "And so it really winds up being a win-win situation."

Dozens of trees were dug from the place they'd taken root, removed by giant transplanting equipment. Native cypress and live oak -- 10 to 20 years old and established -- were moved from the bayou and replanted in the park near the ducks, the geese and the wildlife, which can use them as habitat and shade.

"This is a great location by McGovern Lake and all of the Cypress trees came through Ike just beautifully, and in another 10 or 15 years, these trees will still be here," said Stoller.

They'll be here for people to enjoy; a new generation of trees taking their places along with the older stands of oak and pine that have seen a city grow beneath their branches.

Total cost for removing and transplanting 73 trees is $50,000. That may sound like a lot, but it is a fraction of what it would cost to use a commercial tree service. Flood Control is transplanting 10 other trees on the widened bayou banks to stabilize soil, control flooding and preserve nature.

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