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The Brownsville Independent School District on Friday recognized an ongoing effort in which 356 trees have been planted at schools across the district over the past three years.
BISD held a tree-planting ceremony at Manzano Middle School, where front office staff joined students, campus administration, city and state forestry officials and maintenance personnel to plant native trees around a courtyard on the campus.
Through a grant from the urban reforestation nonprofit One Tree Planted, BISD will plant 210 trees this school year on 10 campuses to go with 136 planted the year before on seven campuses and 10 that were planted in 2021-2022.
The new trees are being planted in areas where kids gather or play. Besides beautifying schools, the tree shade will provide relief from the sun and encourage kids to explore the natural habitat trees provide for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, Micaela Escobar, BISD director of records management and recycling, which obtained the grant, said earlier this year.
At Manzano, everyone joined in planting the trees, which according to Bill Green, the Texas A&M community forester for the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend, included ebony, Mexican olive and anacua.
At Besteiro Middle School, a lone tree had stood near the football field to provide shade from the searing South Texas sun for players, coaches, parents and spectators.
Trees were planted all around the field as part of a project to help create a green canopy to lower temperatures.
According to the World Atlas, Brownsville is the fifth hottest city in the U.S., with a record temperature of 106 degrees. Planting trees also engages parents to get involved in their children’s education and well-being as well as create opportunities for parents to connect with the community in which they live, Escobar said.
Other schools where trees will be planted include Aiken, Ben Brite, Egly, Gonzalez, Hudson, Keller, Paredes and Putegnat elementary schools. Last year, trees were planted at Pena, Breeden, Casteneda, Perez, Pullam and Palm Grove elementary schools, as well as Stell Middle School.
A dedicated team will visit each campus to provide support to ensure the newly planted trees have the maintenance and care required to survive the first two years, which studies show is critical to their long term survival.
“The immediate benefits are environmental awareness and community engagement. We have seen the excitement of the school community as they celebrate the planting of trees at their schools. The long term benefits are restoring wildlife habitat and providing tree canopy, which improves air quality, protects from UV rays, and many more benefits,” Escobar said.
“BISD has the opportunity to inspire and engage students to learn firsthand the positive effects of planting trees within their community. Students will learn how to properly plant and take care of trees through their guided science lessons, which can influence their personal decisions,” she added.
The district is working with the Brownsville Beautification Committee to establish environmental and recycling clubs to engage students to become informed responsible citizens on issues affecting the environment.
A team including city forester Gina Mota and Bill Green, community forester for the Texas A&M Forest Service, is helping decide what trees to plant and where.
This year, Anacua cedar elm and crepe myrtle were added to a mix that includes bald cypress, ebony, honey mesquite, huisache, Texas persimmons, western soapberry, wild olive, and Mexican white oak trees.
The project is one of more than 45 that One Tree Planted is supporting globally as part of the Urban Forestry Action fund, a portfolio of high-impact urban forestry projects aimed at planting urban trees to address environmental justice issues such as urban heat, air pollution, and lack of community green spaces, and ultimately help communities achieve tree equity.
“We have a long way to go to reach our desired outcome — a future where all people, regardless of race or income, have not only equal access to the benefits of trees, but equitable access to the resources needed to get us there,” said Tanner Haid, director of Urban Forestry at One Tree Planted. “This project with Brownsville ISD, and the overarching work of the Urban Forestry Action Fund, is a meaningful step in that direction.
“We will continue driving resources towards communities that need them most.”