Donna Bennett, a member of the Houston Heights Association Urban Forestry Committee, sees the Yale Green Corridor Sign Toppers as the culmination of a lot of hard work.
Bennett, along with fellow committee members Jonathan Smulian, Mark Williamson and Angela DeWree, worked to get a 1.5-mile portion of Yale Street — from 6th Street to 19th Street — designated as the city’s first green corridor in 2017.
“This is the first use of Houston’s 1991 green corridor ordinance, which has the potential for the creation of similar green corridors in many districts citywide,” Smulian said in a HHA news release.
“It was difficult and we didn’t have a lot of time,” added Bennett, who said they had to inventory and measure the trees and also get 70 percent of business property owners along the street to buy in to the idea. “A lot of the businesses were owned by third-party investors and we had to track them down.”
Still, Bennett said a belief in the cause made it easy to explain to the owners why a green corridor would be a benefit to them. As Smulian told Houston Public Media in 2016, the trees “act as a buffer on the street and are important to the environment and ambiance of the whole neighborhood.”
Smulian related the history of the trees, the majority of which are live oaks planted in 1987 by the community in partnership with Trees for Houston.
“They watered them for two years,” Smulian told Houston Public Media. “We have a real stake in what happens to these trees.”
In 2008, the oaks were in danger when the city was talking about widening Yale. Ultimately, the city improved the street but did not widen it and the trees were preserved.
Following the designation of the green corridor, Bennett and committee members brainstormed the best way to mark it. Ultimately the sign toppers were the winner.
“The city has (the process) down pat,” Bennett said. “You do have to buy and install them. We got a design approved by (Houston) Public Works.”
In addition to its own fundraising, the Houston Heights Association Urban Forestry Committee was awarded a $5,000 matching grant by Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen through the Department of Neighborhoods. The green corridor street sign toppers installation was completed in mid-June. The mature trees 15 inches in diameter and greater are now protected in the right-of-way with the green corridor designation on Yale Street.
“The toppers clearly define the Yale Green Corridor and will help to identify it as a special place,” Smulian said. “The corridor exemplifies the actions we need to take to nurture and sustain the street trees that are so important in both giving us shade and creating the special character of our historic neighborhood. The city’s support for this venture has been admirable and we are now undertaking the first phase of an initiative to introduce new trees to fill gaps in the tree cover on all Heights streets.”