By Bianca Broman
I grew up in the Houston Heights on Yale St in a historic home next door to Milroy Park. Nearly 30 years ago, my mother was a founding member of a tree planting effort called Trees for Yale, which organized the planting of more than 500 live oaks along that major street.
As a local Houstonian, born and raised on Yale St, I grew up alongside these trees. Now I am 26, so it could be said that those trees and I are about the same age. As I was growing taller and stronger, the trees grew taller and stronger as well. Now, I am grown, and the trees have grown to form a beautiful canopy that wildlife and commuters alike can enjoy.
These trees mean so much to me. They are a symbol of my mother’s love for her community and her environment. They were seeds of hope that she planted three decades ago, with a vision to create a more beautiful future. A vision that, with the help of friends, locals, volunteers, and city officials, she has helped cultivate to fruition. They were seeds of love that she planted before she made the decision to become a mother, and those seeds grew into roots and branches that connect me to this space.
I have traveled quite a bit as an adult, and I have come to realize that many outsiders’ perception of Houston, Texas is that it is a very industrialized region with very little natural beauty to enjoy. Indeed, it is true that businesses seem to flourish here and nearly everywhere I look these days, a new skyscraper or city center is being built. However, the perception of an outsider is very different than that of an insider. As a local who was born and raised in the greater Houston area, and a traveling wanderer coming home, I can’t help but notice how the city seems to breathe better than it used to, as sidewalks all over have become adorned with trees, and even the infrastructure seems teeming with life as vines cling to fences and flowers blossom in landscape designs.
The city of Houston has been making numerous amazing efforts to expand greenspace. Since the city launched the major reforestation campaigns along the bayou and Allen Parkway, the budding life and new growth is enchanting. My beloved Houston Arboretum & Nature Center has never looked lusher, since all of the new growth and restoration efforts. Memorial Park Conservancy has even announced its plans to build a land bridge over Memorial Drive, which will add acreage of green back into the Park and heal the divide that the major roadway created between the wilderness park. Heights Blvd and Yale St continue to thrive with its lush green canopies highlighted with artwork.
The live oak trees on Yale St. were officially designated as a part of Houston’s “green corridor” which protects them against removal by the city. Although their safety was threatened by a proposal to expand Yale St, locals endeavored to defend them faithfully, and the city decided to treat them with respect. I was personally overflowing with pride when my mother’s trees were labeled as protected, and for me it represented a tremendous weight being lifted, and relaxing into a feeling of comfort and ease, knowing that her efforts would not be taken for granted, and that our hometown had admirable values with respect to its greenspace.
Returning home can be stressful at times, as it seems like there is a new business on every corner, and a new apartment complex in every neighborhood. What was once recognizable is now ever changing within a thriving economy. And yet, as a native who grew up in the area, I cannot help but recognize how noticeably alive everything seems to be, and I am grateful for the ongoing efforts by organizations dedicated to the greenery of Houston. As business names change and new businesses emerge on the scene, it is deeply comforting to feel the steadfastness of our city’s trees. As a child, I played near them, and as an adult, I remember them, and the shade they provided. Watching them grow, and growing alongside them, has been one of my greatest honors and joys. It is a great source of comfort and constancy to see them thriving and healthy.
When a city invests in conservation and restoration efforts, growth cannot always be measured in terms of a dollar amount. However, when growth can be measured in terms of the land and its greenspace, and its ecosystem services, then we are planting seeds for a more beautiful future for our children and our children’s children, which has its own rich value. When individuals take the time to plant trees in their backyard, they are also planting seeds of hope for their futures, and future generations.
As a child of one of these pioneer tree planters in the region, reflecting and contemplating my feelings towards the subject, I am humbled by the power of nature to make us feel connected. We so often forget that we are nature. When we have lost a connection to nature, we have lost a connection to ourselves. By planting trees, as individuals or as organizations, we are planting seeds of hope for a future generation of connectedness and community, and increased resiliency. We must plant these seeds of hope today, so that future generations can enjoy the fruits of our efforts. We must believe that every little effort counts, because to a child, it does.