The Drought of 2011
Heartbreak's bill: Cleaning up all of Houston's dead trees will cost the city atleast $4.5 million
Mayor Annise Parker asked Parks and Recreation Department director Joe Turner to report on the status of our trees to City Council this week. And, as we expected, the prognosis is not so good.
The parks department has been working for the past several weeks on driving every city street, assessing the situation, getting a count of how many dead trees the city has on its hands. The department counted more than 9,300 dead. And that's not including the forested areas, which Turner guesses could amount to a total of 15,000.
It would cost the city $4.5 million just to remove that many trees, according to Estella Espinosa, communications manager for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.
And Barry Ward, the executive director of Trees for Houston, thinks the city is being very conservative with those numbers. Ward expects 66 million trees in the greater Houston area to die as a result of this summer's drought within the next two years, figures he first released in an exclusive interview with CultureMap.
What's the next step for losses of this magnitude? Crews have already removed more than 1,000 dead trees to date. Contracted teams are working along city streets, and park crews within the parks, taking care of the trees on a case-by-case basis.
The smoking ban in city parks is still in effect. Twenty one watering trucks, most borrowed from other departments, are making the rounds to hydrate trees in need. The city plans to initiate a planting program to replenish the canopy once the immediate dangers have been addressed.
But this degree of damage will ultimately really affect the appearance of the Bayou City and its signature canopy. Plus, the rapid disappearance of natural filters will prove a huge detriment to the quality of air that Houstonians breathe.
This situation isn't going to improve without an abundance of rain. Soon.