New Growth: Volunteers plant new trees as part of new city ecological program

Published on Saturday, 8 March 2014 22:11 - Written by Victor Texcucano

With spring’s arrival looming, more than 75 volunteers worked together on Saturday morning to ensure Tyler looks as green as ever come springtime.

As part of the Tyler Tree Initiative, which seeks to plant 5,000 trees in five years beginning in 2010, volunteers came together along Old Jacksonville Highway to bolster the effort.

The goal of 5,000 trees, however, was surpassed after three years of the program, Mayor Barbara Bass said.

Mayor Bass said the tree initiative would now focus on major corridors and roads that lead into the city, in a program she and the TREES (Tyler Reforestation Encouraging Ecological Stability) committee are calling “Greening Up the Gateways.”

“This particular program will be going over major corridors in the community, and we will see where we can beautify the entryways into our community,” she said. “When people hit Tyler, Texas, we want them to know that we are here and we are a beautiful city.”

She also said a big part of the reason for the program was to offset the urbanization of the city, which often harms the vegetation within the city.

“When you look at any community as they grow, people cut down trees to expand,” she said. “Trees have a natural life cycle, like people do. They die, and they need to be replaced. We want to make sure we are being very judicious about replacing those trees.”

Mayor Bass said the city has guidelines and requirements on how commercial land developers should replace trees cut down in building processes within the city limits.

Ann Butler, TREES committee member and science instructional consultant at Whitehouse ISD, said the tree plantings bring awareness to the importance of urban forestry.

“At the rate we’re cutting trees down, if we’re not intentional about the way we replant trees, we will lose the fact that East Texas is a unique area to live,” Mrs. Butler said. “It’s such a great place to live with trees.”

Luke Porter, arborist for the City of Tyler, said repopulating the forest within the city was crucial to maintain the image people have come to known.

“When you fly into Dallas or Houston, all you see is concrete down below,” Porter said. “Tyler’s not like that. You see trees. You don’t really see the buildings and structures.”

Porter said the trees planted Saturday currently are three to four years old, and will reach full maturity between 10 and 40 years, depending on the species of the tree.

He said they are planting nine different species of trees, while stressing the importance of biodiversity.

Trees can be prone to insects or disease, but not many of these attack all kind of trees.

“It won’t go from a maple tree to an oak tree,” he said. “For example, if a tree gets Dutch elm disease, that attacks only elm trees, and we plant all elm trees, and they get the disease, (then they’re all gone).”

The nine species, which were planted along Old Jacksonville Highway on Saturday, include cedar elms, Chinese pistaches, Purple plums and several kinds of oak trees.

Ms. Butler said the goal now for the TREES committee is to work with land developers to show and encourage them to embrace the addition of trees, rather than seeing it as an obstacle.