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Where the dead trees go: Memorial Park's fallen canopy will be turned into lumber and pulp

Where the dead trees go: Memorial Park's fallen canopy will be turned into lumber and pulp

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Galveston residents carved sculptures out of trees destroyed by Hurricane Ike. Photo via Traveling Chemist
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Houston has tens of thousands of trees left dead after the summer's drought. Photo by Whitney Radley
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The new Montrose H-E-B made benches from trees the crews removed for construction. Photo by Joel Luks
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When the orange-paint-marked trees affected by pine beetle and lack of water are cleared, few vestiges will remain of Memorial Park's canopy, once thickly forested with stately pines.

During the initial stages of dead tree removal, Barry Ward of Trees for Houston worried that private contractors were sending tree debris to the landfill, wasting valuable dollars and precious resources in the process.

But in mid-October, the City of Houston signed a $4.5 million contract with DRC Emergency Services, in cooperation with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and the Solid Waste Management Department. A stipulation was set for the responsible disposal of trees, that "hazardous tree debris will be recycled, with the city benefiting through the use and sale of the wood products resulting from tree removal, and by keeping this enormous amount of organic material out of the landfills."

 Other companies and municipalities have taken a more playful, less pragmatic approach to re-purposing dead trees. 

The wood will be made into lumber, pulp, paper mill chips or biomass — the highest and best use for each individual tree, depending upon the size and the tree's health. Trees are felled and then hauled to a temporary disposal site near Atascocita.

As CultureMap first reported, 66 million trees in the greater Houston area are expected to die as a result of this year's drought.

"There's a huge disincentive for us to send trees to a landfill," said Tom Combs, vice president of Texas operations for the DRC Group. "We have to pay to dispose of waste materials there. But if we recycle the wood, it costs us nothing, and we get revenue for the city."

Revenue that the City of Houston will use to help offset the astronomical cost of the tree removal. Officials instituted a similar program after Hurricane Ike, partnering with Living Earth Technology Co. to prepare and sell mulch.

Other companies and municipalities have taken a more playful, less pragmatic approach to re-purposing dead trees. For instance, the new Montrose H-E-B has made wooden benches from the trees that the company cleared for construction.

Galveston residents carved sculptures out of the ancient, well-loved trees left dead after Hurricane Ike, adding a touch of thoughtful kitsch to their nostalgia. The Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange utilized the trees knocked down by Hurricane Rita in the construction of its buildings, and the result is architecturally stunning.

Would you like to see some of Memorial Park's trees preserved in this way?

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