Friday, May 15, 2009

A Tree Grows In Houston

There are things about The Heights that truly make it stand out. In the concrete jungle of metro Houston, the green space in this neighborhood is like an oasis in the desert. With the quaint older homes come the beautiful and majestic old-growth trees. While many of these trees have withstood the worst Houston has had to dish out, every once in a while we lose some of the biggest and best.

Hurricane Ike was one of those events. While The Heights is by no means Galveston or the Bolivar Peninsula, we had our share of losses. Many a gorgeous tree was felled by the storm- several through the homes they once shaded.

There were trees in Christina Moreland’s yard that looked like they could do some serious damage to her new Shady Acres home. Nervous about the possibility of serious damage, Christina and her husband packed up their toddler and evacuated before the storm. They came back to find that their home escaped any major damage, but they lost the trees anyway- just in a different direction. Returning to Houston to see all the damage wrought by Ike, Christina knew she wanted to do “something.” Should she volunteer down in Galveston? She could, but it could only be short term and she had a real desire to make a lasting impact and counter the impact that Ike had made. She decided she wanted to stay close to home and create that impact in the neighborhood she lived in. She decided to start here, in The Heights. And she decided to start with trees.

Much like Trees For Houston, which started post- Alicia in 1983, Christina started Keep Heights Green to help repair some of the damage from Ike. We know trees don't compare to loss of life or property, but there are many ways to help rebuild. In fact, these two organizations have formed a partnership based on a common mission ans similar roots. Keep Heights Green helps Trees for Houston by taking, in part, one large neighborhood off their plate. They are happy to have an organization with a common mission looking out for an entire section of the city. Keep Heights Green gets to draw on over 30 years of experience from TFH. All in all, it’s a great partnership from which we all benefit.

Keep Heights Green has been lucky to have the support of businesses in the neighborhood. Several members of The Heights business community have signed on as advisers to the group, helping them get off the ground, and making well-rounded decisions that are propelling them forward. They have established themselves as a Texas 501c3 and, with the help of their all volunteer crew, completed one major project in The Heights in an area we can all admit needs some help.

Keep Heights Green has completed a great beautification project at Ella and 610. In partnership with the Shady Acres Civic Club, AJs Landscaping and the businesses that operate around the targeted medians, KHG has been able to plant and maintain 18 live oak trees in 2 median strips, bringing some much needed green to one of the more commercial and concrete-laden parts of The Heights. The project, called Friends of Ella, may sound like a pretty easy task to complete and, yes, money for trees is “pretty easy to come by.” However, Christina points out that maintenance is costly (upwards of $75/tree annually) and keeping theses trees strong, growing and healthy isn’t as easy as planting them. Luckily, the businesses around the medians agreed to let Christina and her volunteers use their water. AJs donated the labor and know-how. Sure, in an ideal world the City would water these trees and make sure they survive the Houston summer, but KHG volunteers are putting in the extra time and effort to make sure the trees are cared for, city help or not. Recently, Phase II of the project was completed, and the medians have not only been planted but mulched and maintained.

What kinds of goals do Christina and her leadership panel have for the organization? Big ones! They want not only to “replant/replace trees lost during Hurricane Ike,” but also to “be an advocate of trees in the Heights area and promote tree advocacy in general.” Additionally, the group hopes to advocate a larger message and “promote positive messages of recycling/re-purposing discarded items into something useful and beneficial.”

How are they going to accomplish these goals? Well, they believe they have a mission people can stand behind. Evidence of this can be seen in places like a University of Houston Public Relations class. For their final, this class looked at several non-profit organizations and their missions. Out of many, they picked one they found deserving of help and support--an organization with a mission they could all stand behind and support. For their project, the class will develop a marketing and communications plan for the organization to use. This will definitely help KHG get the word out and more word means more trees for the rest of us.

For right now, Christina and KHG have a Facebook page and a website is in the works. Their mission is being supported by neighborhood civic groups and people in around The Heights. Christina says the great thing about operating in The Heights is that this is a neighborhood where “neighbors care for neighbors.” We can “care for different reasons, but the end result is the same.”

Do you think they have a mission worth supporting? You can donate the other green (that would be cash) through the Facebook page or you can volunteer your time. Like many residents of The Heights, Christina is excited to do something good and lasting to benefit this neighborhood. She could definitely use your help. :)

1 comment:

  1. It’s really good to know about this. Looks really interesting!!!

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