Runners, walkers and cyclists were kept away from the picnic loop area of Memorial Park as contract crews — overseen by forestry staffers from the Houston Parks and Recreation Department — were busy chopping, sawing and gathering the remnants of trees that once thrived in the park — until the drought.
"We thought two years ago was rough, you know, what we went through two years (ago). This is devastating."
Joe Turner is the director of the Parks and Recreation Department. He says about 1200 trees will be gone from the picnic area alone.
"We probably as a rule, take down about two thousand trees a year. And that's on right of way, that's on esplanades, that's on parks, but in most cases, when it's in a park, we just as a rule of thumb, we just lay it down and we leave it for that natural habitat. In this case if we leave it with the number of dead trees and how dry it is, that's fuel for fire."
Crews are physically marking each tree to be removed from the entire park system. Memorial Park has upwards of 3,000 trees that will be recycled.
"They'll be processed either for lumber, straight to a paper mill, which is one of the things we're working with, with the pine trees. And then the rest of it can either be put into mulch, can be put into what they call a bio mass that they can use, but our goal is to get as much of this as recycled as we can."
Turner says the replanting of native trees is being coordinated with the Memorial Partk Conservancy.
"What we replant in this park is gonna have to have irrigation or a watering system for at least the next two years."
Thanks to city council approving $4 million for the tree removal, Turner says he hopes to have the project completed by the beginning of next year.