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Sierra Club helps regrow trees in the streets

BEAUMONT — The streets are going to become a lot greener if the Sierra Club has anything to say about it.

Many trees lining the streets of Southeast Texas were blown away when Hurricane Rita came to town. Now two years later, most of these trees were never replaced.

With funding through the USDA Forest Service and Texas Forest Service, an effort to get residents within Jefferson, Hardin, Orange, Jasper, Newton and Tyler counties to plant a tree in their front yard is in effect.

Chair member of the Golden Triangle Sierra Club Chris Walker said the Sierra Club first heard of the project when Karen Woodard, Regional Urban Forester for TFS, approached them about the project, called Operation Green Streets.

“This is a Texas Forest Service project, but Karen is a local contractor for them,” he said. “We’re promoting it and making it more local.”

The goal is to hand 10,000 trees out on two specific dates, Nov. 10 and Feb. 9. Although it may sound like a lofty goal, Walker says just under 3,000 have already registered to pick up a tree in November.

“The reason we’re giving them out on these dates is because it’s the best time of year to plant trees,” he said.

Registration for the project started back in August, and the deadline to register for a tree in November is Oct. 5, although people can still sign up for a tree in February beyond that date.

“Right now, we’re helping TFS with the registration process,” he said. “Our goal for the November date is to give out 6,000 trees.”

People registering for trees can pick from one of four trees, a Southern Magnolia, Live Oak, Shumard Oak, or Sweet Gum tree. They will also choose a date to pick the tree up.

There will be 13 distribution spots, including four in Port Arthur. Have a truck ready though, because it’s not just a small twig that will be handed out.

“The trees will be coming in a five gallon container,” Walker said. “They’re going to be around 6 feet.”

To register for a tree, there are only a couple of rules: Be a resident of one of the six counties listed, live in a house (apartments and business not eligible) within city limits, and promise to plant the tree promptly, and water the tree regularly every week for two years. Instructions on how to properly care for the tree will be handed out upon distribution.

The results will help revitalize the urban forest Southeast Texas lost during Rita, Walker said.

Operation Green Streets is also looking for volunteers to help out on the two dates trees will be given out. Help will be needed to load trees and guiding traffic, Walker said.

Those wanting to register or volunteer can call in at 1-877-512-8733, or visit the website at operationgreenstreets.com.