Friday, June 29, 2012

Are you a Lorax?

A local Heights area mom recently wrote to Mayor Parker regarding the loss of nineteen mature Live Oaks on Yale. She compared herself to The Lorax whom, in Dr Seuss' wonderful book, "speaks for the trees." Clearly, the trees can't speak for themselves. If they could, there would still be nineteen 30+ year old Live Oaks on Yale.

RUDH, who watches every step of development at the Yale St Walmart location, was one of the first groups to notice the trees were gone and start doing something about it. If you follow my Facebook page, you probably remember me posting the photo of a few of the crunched trees. It was truly heartbreaking, especially when last summer's drought cost us millions of trees. Trees help temper this hellacious heat, help clean the air (and we all know Houston has bad air) and also help prevent land erosion. 

According to the US Department of Agriculture:
  • The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  • One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.

 There are more great facts about the benefits of trees listed on The Arbor Day Foundation's webpage. Check it out and see how trees help your environment, your stress level and your property value!

So, now we have lost these trees. What is going to happen? In public meetings, people opposed to the Walmart development were ensured that steps were being taken to make the area pedestrian friendly. How can that be true with no shade trees? Yes, Ainbinder does plan on putting trees in- significantly lower caliper and much less hardy Mexican Sycamores. These will never replicate the Live Oaks. Oh yeah, and they're not putting them back on the sidewalk. The planned "replacements" will be on Heights Boulevard. There is also no plan for any tree lines along the Koehler side of the development. Can someone tell me why we gave them $6million public dollars again? Must cost a lot to put in a bike trail to nowhere...

Anyway, please join me and write to the City about the trees. The Mayor was a Board Member at Trees For Houston. How could her administration permit removal of all these trees? It's beyond me. 

My note to the City was simple. Yours can be, too. However, should you want to write something more elaborate, RUDH has provided this sample letter on their StopTheHeightsWalmart Facebook page: 
 Dear Mayor Parker:
I am concerned that the new retail development at Koehler and Yale has removed, but not replaced, many of our valued street trees. The developer’s mitigation plan calls for the majority of trees to be replanted on the Heights Blvd. median, which is a purely recreational space. Our sidewalks are where pedestrians move. It is where we walk with our children, wait for transit and cycle alongside. The Live Oak tree canopy in the Heights provides much needed shade in the extreme summer heat and some respite from the rain. 
Our trees should be carefully guarded. If they must be removed for changes to infrastructure, they should be replaced as close to the same location as possible. Large, heat-resonating developments should specify street trees around their site to promote walk-ability and reduce the heat island effect.  
With Houston making great strides with their hike and bike trails, and the recent U.S. Department of Transportation awarding $15 Million in TIGER Grant to Houston for pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements, it seems fiscally responsible to ensure that developers take steps to tie into this system. Street trees are the ideal place to start. I’m asking you to please find a positive resolution for our neighborhood and area infrastructure. Plant street trees on Yale and Koehler Streets.  

Sign your letter with your name. Sign it with no name. Sign it with "The Lorax." It doesn't matter how you sign it, just as long as you send it! 

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