Around the corner there’s a big live oak that’s about 312 feet in diameter and is almost 40 feet tall with a canopy that spreads across most of the front and side yard.

My guess is that it was planted in the ’30s or ’40s (age of the neighborhood) or earlier. It’s certainly been well cared for and has survived many storms, including Hurricane Ike’s saltwater surge.

I walk or run by this tree almost every day and I started wondering, “Besides beauty, what’s this tree done for me lately?”

Turns out, a lot

Galveston’s urban forest is a critical part of the city’s infrastructure, plays a pivotal role in the economy and makes our island livable.

Our trees help us by slowing stormwater runoff, improving air and water quality and preserving roads and structures by cooling surface temperatures up to 30 degrees. That saves money.

Want to raise your neighborhood’s property values? Did you know that national studies show planting a tree in your yard increases your property values and your neighbors’?

Did you know that cities with plenty of healthy trees benefit from increased retail sales?

Kathleen Wolfe of Washington State University said consumers spend up to 12 percent more on goods and services in commercial centers with trees. That makes money.

How about lowering crime rates? Healthy trees help reduce crime in urban areas, in some cases by more than 10 percent.

A U.S. Forest Service report from Portland, Ore., notes that large street trees reduce crime by implying that a neighborhood is better cared for and that criminals are more likely to be caught.

Want to see more birds? In Galveston, our trees have a substantial impact on wildlife habitat — especially during migration — and, as a result, on eco-tourism and events like FeatherFest.

Live Oaks planted last May in the 46th to 49th street medians on Broadway already have nests.

So back to that big tree. Using and calculators, we find out that it brings $247 annually in benefits to the table.

It increases property values by $65.70, saves $44.58 in electricity, sequesters $8.17 worth of carbon dioxide and saves $6.69 in natural gas.

It also intercepts 19,071 gallons of stormwater runoff, saving the city $115.38.

As it grows, those values increase annually, too.

Along with all the other economic, social and health benefits, it looks like that tree is doing more for me than I’m doing for it.

Proper care of private and public trees enhances the benefits we all enjoy.

You can protect your trees’ health by hiring an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist or a firm that has one on staff for any tree work.

The Galveston Island Tree Conservancy has planted or distributed almost 13,000 trees since 2009.

More than 85 percent of funding for plantings is from private sources.

This is the second of a series of columns from members of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism highlighting nature tourism. The columns will appear each Wednesday during April and are part of the city of Galveston’s 175th anniversary celebration. Priscilla Files is the senior arborist and executives of the Galveston Island Tree Conservancy.

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