Galveston fights to save oak trees from salt damage

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Ed Mahmoud

Galveston fights to save oak trees from salt damage

#1 Postby Ed Mahmoud » Thu Oct 16, 2008 6:28 pm

Harvey Rice Houston Chronicle

Released : Thursday, October 16, 2008 4:00 AM
Oct. 16--GALVESTON -- City officials are struggling to save hundreds of century-old oaks lining Galveston's main thoroughfare after saltwater soaked the ground during Hurricane Ike's storm surge.

The 53 blocks of oak trees were planted on the Broadway Boulevard esplanade, the entrance to the city, after the devastating 1900 hurricane that killed more than 6,000 people.

More than 500 live oaks line Broadway, and they range in age from 50 to 100 years, said Lori Schwarz, city preservation officer.

The saltwater storm surge extinguished plant life islandwide, and the effort to save the oaks is mirrored in yards throughout the city.

The storm killed 32 oaks, but the city hopes to save the remaining trees by soaking their roots with water and applying gypsum to neutralize the salt, city Parks and Recreation Supervisor Roger Johnson said.

"I think it's a huge loss," Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Sanderson said. "We are known for our huge oak trees down the middle of Broadway."

The 1900 storm virtually denuded the island of plant life, and the little that remained was buried under the dredge material used to raise the island 5 feet to make it storm-resistant, according to Jodi Wright-Gidley, curator of the Galveston County Historical Museum.

The Women's Health Protective Association planted the oaks as part of an effort to restore vegetation to the city, Wright-Gidley said.

The association began replanting less than six months after the 1900 storm and by 1912 had planted 10,000 trees and 2,500 oleanders throughout Galveston, according the Handbook of Texas.

Sanderson, who estimated the trees to be 20 to 30 feet high, said her staff has been applying 1,600 gallons of water per block on the surviving trees, watering an average of seven blocks of trees per day. She said that is the most that can be applied by the department's water truck.

The estimated cost to treat the trees is about $6,500, Sanderson said.

Johnson said the results of soil samples taken by the Texas Forest Service were returned Tuesday along with a recommendation that gypsum be applied along with sulphur to raise the acid level of the soil.

Johnson was confident that most could be saved. The esplanade is owned by the Texas Department of Transportation, but the landscaping is managed by the city under contract.


I found this picture on Google, it shows an oak tree on Broadway.


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#2 Postby Cyclenall » Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:36 pm

It's ironic that most of those trees if not all were planted after the 1900 hurricane as a result of it. Now some could die and the process of planting trees after Ike will begin.

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Re: Galveston fights to save oak trees from salt damage

#3 Postby Dionne » Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:10 am

Hmmmmmm? We have live Oaks all along the Mississippi gulf coast. The Oaks that survived the storm (Katrina) surge have not been dying off from the salt left behind. The long leaf Pines are another story.....the salt definitely took a toll on them.....what the wind didn't get the salt finished.

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Re: Galveston fights to save oak trees from salt damage

#4 Postby vbhoutex » Fri Jul 10, 2009 11:11 pm

Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Thu 07/09/2009
Section: B
Page: 1
Edition: 3 STAR R.O.

First day of tree removal cuts Isle residents deep Ike killed about 40,000 trees, many of which carry memories trees: FEMA cutting deadline is Sept. 12



Tree cuttings will be hauled to a DRC Emergency Services yard on Stewart Road just past 89th Street in Galveston. Workers there will set aside prime pieces of wood that will be available free to those who sign a document protecting the company from liability. The free wood will be available from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The rest of the wood will be ground or chipped to reduce its volume and be shipped to the privately run county landfill. The city is still trying to find uses for the wood that would keep it out of the landfill.

Sources: City of Galveston, DRC Emergency Services

ONLINE: Watch as Galveston Island residents say goodbye to their favorite trees in a video at

GALVESTON - Bob Nabours planted an oak tree in Galveston's Adoue Park 36 years ago and watched it grow into a mature tree from his front porch across the street.

Nabours, 90, sat in a chair on the same porch Wednesday morning and watched workers slice off the tree's limbs, then cut it down. It was the first tree in the park to fall as a major project started to remove an estimated 40,000 trees killed by salt water from Hurricane Ike when it struck in September.

"I got tears in my eyes right now," Nabours said. "I'm an old soldier. I'm not supposed to love trees."

Others in his neighborhood felt similar sorrow at the demise of 14 trees in the park behind Rosenberg Elementary School.

"Like everybody else, it just makes me want to cry," said Steve Broadstone, 68, whose house at the corner of 12th Street and Winnie also faces the park. "It's just like cutting off an arm or a leg."

Yolanda Moran, 62, who lives a block from the park, said she is already mourning a tree in the public right of way in front of her house that is marked for cutting. Her father planted the tree for her son when he was 3 years old.

"I've sat out there and stared at it and prayed that it would grow, and it hasn't," Moran said, her eyes tearing and voice quavering.

Century-old trees

Three crews from DRC Emergency Services began cutting trees at city parks, the first of an estimated 11,000 dead and dying trees on public property that will be removed before turning to about 30,000 trees on private property.

Many of the trees marked for the ax were planted after the Great Hurricane of 1900, which killed at least 6,000 island residents. A plaque on Nabours' house, built in 1884, notes that it survived the 1900 storm.

The oak trees lining Broadway, the entrance to the city and its main thoroughfare, will be cut last because their removal will have the greatest emotional impact, said Jennifer Scott, DRC arborist.

Officials want time to educate residents about the need to remove the trees, Scott said. She said many mistakenly believe that the trees will revive if given more time.

"It's just a terrible hazard, and that's all," Scott said. "It's not going to come back."

Pete Smith, Texas Forest Service urban forester, urged homeowners to take advantage of federal funding for tree removal, noting it can cost $1,000 or more to remove a large tree. DRC must remove 40,000 trees before Sept. 12, the last day the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 100 percent of the cost of removing them.

Although only three crews were working Wednesday, seven others were standing by and would join the 12-hours-per-day, seven-day-per-week cutting effort as soon as enough trees were marked.

City spokeswoman Alicia Cahill said the city has asked FEMA to extend the deadline.

A few select trees will be reserved for sculptors, and other trees are being set aside for use in restoring the world's only remaining wooden whaling vessel.

Sculptures planned

Donna Leibert, a member of the city's volunteer tree committee, said artists worldwide have shown interest in sculpting trees at city parks and in front of the fire station next to City Hall. The crews trimmed an oak next to the one planted by Nabours and left it standing for an artist.

Leibert said artists were unlikely to begin work until October. Cahill said the city has not yet decided how to pay for carvings, although there is strong support for them among residents.

About 170 tons of wood from oaks will be used to restore the 1841 whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, in dry dock in Mystic, Conn. Quentin Snediker, director of the museum shipyard, is in Galveston picking out trees to be set aside for shipment.

"I think there is enough to make it economically feasible," said Snediker, who made a cursory survey Tuesday of the trees.

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