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“Christmas Tree Dunes”

On January 24, Texas Sea Grant is "planting" used Christmas trees along its Surfside and Quintana Gulf beaches to trap wind-blown sand and create much-needed dunes (which protect beaches from the ever-present threat of erosion). Thousands of trees are collected each year for the annual “Dunes Day” event in Brazoria County, Texas.

Used Christmas trees work well because they are open enough to let wind blow through, yet the branches are thick enough to trap sand. “Within two weeks there will be so much sand in those trees that you won’t be able to move them,” says Sea Grant extension agent Rich Tillman. “By next summer you won’t even be able to see the trees.” Brazoria County alone has 21 miles of accessible beaches, Tillman said. Since it takes about 1,000 trees to create a mile of dunes, "we could use 21,000 trees if we could get them." Because moving and staking out the Christmas trees is so labor intensive, up to 300 volunteers help out—an effort that not only protects the landscape but "gets people down to the beach to see the environment, and it and gives them an appreciation for it,” Tillman said.

Last summer, Hurricane Claudette and other storms washed away many of the dunes along the beaches, leaving many homes vulnerable to erosion. Most of the trees this year will be laid in residential areas that have had erosion problems. Fighting beach erosion never ends, Tillman said. Storms wash the sand offshore onto sand bars. The sand later moves slowly back toward the beach, where much of it is carried away by the wind.

CONTACT: Rich Tillman, Sea Grant Extension Agent, phone 979-864-1564, e-mail [email protected].
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