City saves, relocates trees for residents to enjoy on new connector road and trail

By Hannah Shulman

If you find yourself enjoying the new trail connector between Brazos River Park and Sugar Land Memorial Park, you might realize that you’re in the company of some familiar friends. Look up, and you’ll see mature, shade-giving Bald Cyprus trees lining the trail.

But these trees weren’t always inhabitants of this new area. In fact, only 53, six-foot trees were included in the original landscape package. Where did these big trees come from?

In 2013, voters passed $31.5 million in parks bonds. This money, however, was allocated to build parks and trails, not plant mature trees so City staff had to get creative with how to add trees without increasing costs.

“While delivering capital improvement projects, City staff always try to be creative to save taxpayers money and provide our residents the best value,” said City Engineer Jessie Li.   

Around the same time, a nearby drainage project required the removal of mature trees.

With the mature trees located, there was now the question of transporting and transplanting the new additions to the trail. But moving 65 35-foot trees can be an expensive, burdensome task.

“We realized that there was this great opportunity to work cooperatively with Fort Bend County,” said Construction Service Manager Greg Willey, who had the original idea of moving the trees from the drainage project.

It turns out that Fort Bend Precinct 3 had a machine—affectionately called “The Beast”—needed to transplant the trees. This machine would allow the engineers to dig up the trees, roots and all, and move them to their new home, with the Parks Department Development and Maintenance staff assisting with this effort and with the care of the trees.

The City started working on an agreement between Fort Bend County to use their machine for this project in exchange for training by the City on how to operate The Beast.

“This is a really exciting project for us,” Jorge Alba, a senior engineer for the City and the project manager for the trail’s design, said. “Not only did we save 65 of these beautiful trees, but we got to deliver better service through creative thinking while saving our residents about $78,000.”