Conservancy has replanted thousands of trees lost to a storm
Conservationist Priscilla Files considers her work less environmental and more of a community service.
“How do we engage the community?” she said. “Once we can get our tree canopy up and healthy, we can start reaping all those benefits, like storm water retention, flow off and shading our streets and buildings.”
Files is part of the Galveston Island Tree Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that emerged to help the island after Hurricane Ike damaged thousands of trees in the area.
In 2008, Ike’s storm surge flooded much of Galveston and destroyed 80 percent of the island’s tree canopy, according to the conservancy. Thousands of trees on the island were destroyed, Files said.
“We lost 40,000 trees island-wide,” she said. “We lost 100-year-old live oaks that lined streets and shaded the island.”
The conservancy’s first goal was to help replace the 500 oak trees that lined Broadway for more than a century, Files said.
“It was an amazing thing to see all those trees go back on Broadway,” she said. “Over 400 trees were lost on Broadway alone.”
Since Ike, the conservancy has replanted 18,000 trees, part of a 25,000-tree goal, Files said.
The conservancy wanted to replant the trees along Broadway to revitalize the island’s image of stately old city, conservancy member Margaret Canavan said.
“Broadway was really the thing we really hoped for in the beginning,” she said. “It was such a huge project and so expensive. It was more of a dream than anything. We are very happy about it. It’s just gorgeous. The trees are just looking great, almost looking as good as they looked before.”
The conservancy also is planting trees in other areas of the island, Canavan said.
“We have planted trees in many parks,” she said. “That is one of our goals to get trees back in parks. We just want to get the right tree in the right place.”
Trees were important to Files long before Ike, she said.
“It’s always been a passion for me,” she said. “I was always fascinated as a kid. I’m fascinated by plants, no matter their size.”
Now, she just wants to inspire and educate future generations about plant conservation, Files said.
“We have also started to look at educating the public about trees,” she said. “Taking care of a mature tree is something that we all need to be doing.”