Christmas Trees Form Beach Barricade

Christmas tree recycling efforts are nothing new — but this year the trees will be used for a special purpose. Thousands of Christmas trees will help rebuild and preserve sand dunes destroyed by Hurricane Ike. Laurie Johnson reports.

It's estimated that about two thirds of Texas beaches are eroding. That ongoing erosion is accelerated when a major
storm hits. Miles of Texas coastland were damaged by storm surge from Hurricane Ike. The damage is particularly bad in Brazoria County.

"In some cases along what we call Blue Water Highway, or Highway 257, dunes were completely destroyed. You can drive there now and there are no dunes between the highway and the beach."

That's Brazoria County Parks Director Richard Hurd. He says they collect Christmas trees every year for dune
restoration through a program they call Dunes Day.

There are a number of drop-off locations throughout the county, including the AMI-Pearland office building, the
Pearland Recycling Center and any county precinct barn.

Hurd says they've done the event for two decades, but this year the need is urgent.

"The idea of the Christmas trees is to put them out along these areas of the beach and throughout the year they'll collect blown sand and over time vegetation will come in and start to hold them down even further and they're just another means to kind of speed up the natural process of dune restoration."

The trees are stuck into the beach and staked down. As sand collects among the needles and branches and
vegetation grows, they disappear from view and become part of the coastal landscape.

Rich Tillman with the Texas AgriLife Extension office says people often don't realize what a critical role dunes
play until they're gone.

"They're a natural process of coastal barriers. What they do is they act as a first line of defense against high tides and storms. And now, even though Blue Water Highway has been repaired most of the way and it has been resurfaced — here lately in the last month we've been getting some real high tides and strong east winds — and because there are no dunes, that water is coming up over Blue Water Highway."

It takes about a thousand Christmas trees to restore one mile of dunes. That means Brazoria County needs to collect 20,000 trees for its 20 miles of damaged beaches.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...