No Mercy for Galveston Street Trees

NO MERCY FOR GALVESTON STREET TREES Hundreds of Galveston residents have been calling the city’s tree-appeal hotline, arguing that particular street trees targeted in the massive post-Ike chainsaw sweep should not be cut down. After seeing new leaves on the 3-story Live Oak in front of his Avenue L home, one resident offered the city $1,000 not to chop it down. His tree got a re-evaluation, but didn’t exhibit enough new growth to get a reprieve. “If the city could give the trees more time to recover, and if it rained soon, a few more might stand a chance of survival, [Texas Forest Service urban forester Pete] Smith said. But the city will get reimbursed only for the expensive removal process through Sept. 12. Between now and then, crews are scheduled to remove an estimated 11,000 trees in the public right of way and about 30,000 trees on private property. Live oak tress must have at least 30 percent of their leaves to be spared. Other varieties must have at least 50 percent of their leaves.” [Galveston County Daily News]

18 Comment

  • the market ($) rules … what a shame

  • At the end of the day when the Forest Service forester says a few more might survive he means just that, a few more. Whilst it is undoubtedly sad to see these trees come down the vast majority are not going to properly recover and are going to become a significant public safety hazard over the next few years as they start shedding limbs. To classify it purely as the market ruling is a gross over-simplification.

  • OK, I’ll accept that, since it sounds like you know a lot about trees. But maybe that reimbursement deadline oughta be relaxed.

    It’s hard to imagine driving into Galveston via Broadway and not seeing that oaks in the median but I guess that’s what’s in the cards.

  • “the market ($) rules … what a shame”

    Don’t falsely blame this on the market. Galveston is working with Federal money. If they wait longer, the citizens of the city will have to handle the cost versus the Federal aid going through the forestry service.

    The city is just avoiding increased costs.

  • I think kjb’s point kinda reinforces banjo’s point. The timing of the great tree apocalypse of ’09 comes down to a matter of $. It’s hard to stomach the thought of such a mass tree removal, however scientifically and financially justifiable it may be. (But I assume that those in charge recognize the value of healthy trees, and I hope they’re not marking healthy trees for removal just to plump up that check from the forest service.)

  • I think the concern is there are some marginally healthy trees that are coming back, but our recent whether pattern hasn’t been much help. A period of little rain is not good for nursing these trees back to health.

    I think a chunk a trees with some new growth will go down.

    Does anyone know anything about the replacement side of this?

  • Now if they can only catch that idiot firebug down there who is torching the trees!

  • From the article it appears that both the Forest Service and FEMA have to sign off on each tree being too far gone. Neither of those groups have anything to gain from plumping up the numbers. Neither the City nor the removal contractors can certify a tree for removal.

    I guess the problem with those showing some small sign of life is determining whether they will substantially recover. It is one thing for isolated areas of the tree to come back but that potentially still leaves the bulk of the trunk and limbs as dead wood.

  • What’s the rush?

    I say give the trees a couple more seasons and see what comes back.

  • From what I’ve seen, it looks like a LOT of them are fire hazards and potential safety hazards. I’m surprised there haven’t been more tree-borne structure fires and big branches falling on cars and buildings. I love oak trees and Galveston, but I’m surprised they’ve waited this long to cut them down. Move on, cut them down, plant new, and barring another salt-water inundation, you’ll be surprised how quickly it will look good again. Oaks grow fast (if the soil isn’t corrupted by salt, which I guess could be a problem.)

  • marmer is right.

    Galveston isn’t new to the starting over bit. The main part of the city started all over after the bit storm at the turn of the 20th century. Ike was another chapter and the city just needs to start anew. Trees are renewable. Plant, nurture, and enjoy!

  • Not to nitpick, but Live Oaks do not grow fast. They are one of the slower maturing oak tree varieties. I have planted many of them. The slow growth rate and longevity is one of the reasons they are so expensive to purchase in larger caliper sizes. I can see the reasoning behind wanting to utilize the fed funding for the rather expensive removal and it’s limited time table. On the other hand, I can also see why many people could be interested in saving several of the now regrowing trees. There are methods of helping to rejuvenate trees that have been damaged by forces of nature. If there were enough volunteers that banded together to assist certain healthy enough prospects, they might be able to convince the powers that be to allow them to work on select trees, on a case by case basis.

  • There is another thing besides what you see above the ground. It’s what is below. The trees along Broadway have extensive roots that go under the roadway that intertwine with existing storm, water, gas, and sanitary sewer lines. Trees are the bane on storm and sanitary sewer lines.

    When the removal process begins, there are all kinds of problems that can occur. This is a big part of the cost for removing the trees. Extensive dead roots could be a problem by causing some voids under the streets.

    Just more to think about.

  • Thanks, kjb. We all needed more to think about here. ;-) Good conversation on this post, some illuminating points made.

  • I agree that these trees pose a safety hazard along streets. Ike-damaged trees are still dropping limbs even though they’ve leafed out this year. (No doubt, drought stress.)
    However, couldn’t those in parks & low-traffic places be given a longer reprieve to see if they can survive? Cordon off the areas around them? Use the federal funds to do an AWESOME job on the medians? Because when a tree grows back on a mature root system, it does so quickly & beautifully! How awesome to have more BIG trees!

    Also true kjb: a rotting root network will leave a soft spot below ground though, given several years, this will provide a nutritious soil for the new saplings… I’ve heard there are some huge voids underneath streets in San Francisco and ‘the only thing holding the storm sewers and sidewalks together is tree roots!’
    I’ve still not cut down some tall, broken-off Ike stumps in the hope they will regenerate from the roots; the pear, magnolia & gums have done so, but, no sign yet from the 3 oaks…

  • Willows and Crepe Myrtles are other species that sprout well from stumps.

    I can’t say I’ve seen an Oak do that though, but I’m not an arborist.

  • I’ve heard that oaks are trickier than other ‘quicker’ yet shorter-lived trees. A baby oak growing off a stump only uses a fraction of the roots, so isn’t as strong and more likely to fall, but can utilize the entire system in time? Don’t know how this works if the old roots are dying all the while… I need an Aggie.