GALVESTON — Like so many other parts of the island since Hurricane Ike, the streets west of Ball High School offer little shade. What little shade does exist has become primo parking space for the residents in neighborhoods of mostly single-family homes.
Keeping the neighborhood cooler is one of the reasons that the Galveston Island Tree Conservancy, the island’s prolific tree-planting nonprofit organization, is focusing its efforts on a small section of Galveston for its annual Neighborwoods tree-planting day March 23.
While it will take up to a year of care for the trees to grow to a point where they cast a good shadow, the long-term effects are important, said Priscilla Files, the senior arborist for the conservancy.
Asphalt lasts longer when it isn’t exposed to direct sunlight, Files said, and electricity costs skyrocket when more people must depend on air-conditioning for cooling.
“It’s a problem that’s compounding on itself,” said Files.
The conservancy plans to plant about 130 trees on the streets between Avenue N and Avenue O, from 43rd to 50th streets, Files said.
A few weeks ago, green and white signs appeared on front lawns along the blocks the conservancy is targeting, showing homeowners where new trees could be planted. All homeowners must do is submit a card, agreeing to take care of the trees for the next two years and choosing the species of tree they want planted. Beyond the cost of being watered, the trees come at no cost to people who accept them.
One of this year’s trees may go in front of Louis Henry’s house, in the 4300 block of Avenue N. Henry said he’s gone over the list of choices for the trees — which range in variety from the Montezuma bald cypress to cedar elms.
Henry said that shade would be nice, but he was most concerned about aesthetics.
“I think it will definitely make the neighborhood look better,” Henry said. “It will make everything look more uniform.”
Files said the conservancy ensures the new trees follow proper city regulations, including that they maintain a certain distance from stop signs and power lines and they are planted in hand-dug holes.
In order to dig those 130 holes, the conservancy is once again relying on the help of more than 100 students from Texas A&M University at Galveston. The planting day coincides with Texas A&M’s annual service day, known as The Big Event.
This year’s project will be smaller than last year when the conservancy and its volunteers planted 550 trees in a single day. Files said because the conservancy did not receive funding for the project until January, there was less time to plan than in years past. While the deadline for this year has passed, Files said she is already accepting applications from groups that would like to get trees on their street next year.
Hurricane Ike destroyed 40,000 trees in the city, Files said. The tree conservancy has a long-term goal of replanting 25,000 trees — and recently passed the 10,000 mark.