Harvey Rice Houston Chronicle
Released : Thursday, October 16, 2008 4:00 AMOct. 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.