Your Christmas Trees Can Help Texas Fight Climate Change

A mother and daughter help to anchor trees on Dunes Day.
A mother and daughter help to anchor trees on Dunes Day. Photo by Brazoria County Parks
Don’t throw out your live Christmas trees, wreaths, and garlands once the Christmas holiday is over. Brazoria County needs those to help fight the increasingly strong storms that have been pounding the Texas coast as climate change makes hurricane season longer and more brutal.

The county has been running its annual Dunes Day since 1978 according to parks lead interpreter Mike Mullenweg. Through January 10, live trees (no plastic) with all their decorations removed can be dropped off at the following locations.

-Brazoria County Parks HQ, 313 W. Mulberry, Angleton
-Surfside Beach Main Entrance, across from Sharkies Bar & Grill
-Manvel Substation, 7313 Corporate Drive, Manvel
-Precinct 1 HQ, 1432 Highland Park Drive, Clute
-Precinct 2 HQ, 21017 CR 171, Angleton
-Precinct 3 HQ, 2508 N. Gordon, Alvin
-Precinct 4 HQ, 121 N. 10th Street, West Columbia

From there, they will be hauled out to the beaches at Follett's Island and the beach in Surfside for the big volunteer Dunes Day event on January 16. The trees are anchored into the ground with stakes and natural twine so windblown sand will gather and form protective dunes. A hot dog lunch will be provided for volunteers.

“The dunes on the barrier islands of Texas help protect everything behind it from storms in the Gulf,” says Mullenweg. “Houses, highways, and businesses. Without the dunes, the storm surge and tides from tropical storms would just wash over the entire island. When you have an event like Ike, it did overcome the dunes and washed them away. It ruined a lot of houses and shut down the Bluewater Highway [Brazoria CR 257].”

Rebuilding and fortifying the dunes is becoming more and more important as climate change makes the storms in Texas more frequent and brutal. The 2018 National Climate Assessment estimated that the average sea level on the Texas coast will rise between one to four feet between now and the end of the century, making the area far more vulnerable to storm damage and flooding. Storms like Harvey are likely to be harbingers of things to come rather than one-off catastrophic events, making land management programs like Dunes Day all the more crucial to coastal areas. The use of the Christmas trees is one small way to fight the effects that can have an enormous impact.

“They’ll decompose and add fertilizer that will attract beach grasses and succulents,” says Mullenweg. “It’s the grasses that hold them in place. Without them they just blow away. After Ike we had an extremely good volunteer response because there were no dunes left. After the number of storms that hit the Texas coast this summer and fall, a lot of the dunes are just gone. Not all of them, but a lot. In places it’s completely flat to the bay.”

Dunes Day. Saturday, January 16. 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers to meet at Stahlman Park (2211 Bluewater Highway). Call 979-864-1152 or visit brazoriacountytx.gov for more information.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner