Dune Seeding: Another Great Hands-On Conservation Project

Tom Brown | President | Texas Open Beach Advocates
Dune Seeding: Another Great Hands-On Conservation Project

What did you do with your old Christmas tree this year? Throw it out by the curb to become part of a landfill? Donate it to become mulch for landscaping?

Well, some hearty fishermen and women along the upper Gulf Coast got together for their fourth annual dune seeding project on a stretch of beach in Brazoria County. Members of Coalition of Confused Coastal Fisherman (CCCF), 2coolfishing and Texas Open Beach Advocates (TOBA) spent their Saturday on January 6th staking out nearly 400 Christmas trees to seed sand dunes.

These folks didn't just jump in the car and drive down the street to their beach to drop off their old trees and then spend a warm, sunny morning on the beach. Most drove well over 30 miles in heavy fog to get to their favorite beach. One member drove all the way down from Nacogdoches the night before. Foggy morning breakfast chili helped warm up the workers.

How often have you read in the papers and periodicals, or heard on the radio or TV, the need to protect our beaches and sand dunes from erosion? Most times there is a corresponding call for more federal money to fund beach and dune restoration projects. The State of Texas has lagged behind most other coastal states in getting its share of the available, and dwindling, federal funding for these projects.

Well, one thing that has traditionally been done along the coast is to place brush and tree trimmings along the dunes to help trap the wind blown sand causing new dunes to start "growing."

The use of organic material to seed sand dunes is actually a method recommended by the Texas General Land Office over other methods of dune stabilization such as the installation of geo-textile tubes. And the use of old Christmas trees is actually recommended in the Texas Natural Resources Code.

For over 20 years, Brazoria County has been taking old Christmas trees and using them to seed sand dunes. The Christmas trees trap the sand much like sand fences, but also biodegrade and become part of the dunes themselves.

Brazoria County usually concentrates all of its efforts to the beaches that front the City of Surfside and Quintana Beach. But that leaves a good 12 miles or so of beach that are left to suffer the effects of high tides, storms and pounding surf.

The folks from CCCF, 2coolfishing and TOBA focus their "dead tree planting" between Access Points 5 and 6 along the Bluewater Highway on Follett's Island. They call this section of beach Sam's Beach in memory of Sam Lucas, a founding member of CCCF and TOBA who loved to fish there.

Today, there are signs that these efforts are having at least a small affect on the beach. Small dunes are starting to develop where trees have been planted during previous projects. Although that may not sound like much, it is a significant accomplishment along a stretch of beach that has lost up to 7 feet a year to erosion.

Overall, Brazoria County staked out about 8,500 Christmas trees this year with hundreds of volunteers taking part. The guys and gals from CCCF, 2coolfishing and TOBA have staked out about 1,200 trees in the four years they have been planting the dead trees. Next year, they hope to match what they have accomplished in the first four years.

Think about that next year when you are getting ready to stick that old dead Christmas tree out by the curb. There just may be a group in your area that could use it for a worthwhile project like the dune seeding along the Brazoria County beaches. And you folks along the upper coast, remember the folks at CCCF, 2coolfishing and TOBA could use your trees when the time comes.

The websites for these groups are: www.coastalfishing.org; www.2coolfishing.com and www.texasopenbeaches.org.

The contact information for Brazoria County is:
Denise Grier, Supervisor, Special Events; www.brazoriacountyparks.com, deniseg@brazoria-county.com.