THANKS to the vision of a man who loves trees - and to the work of civic leaders - Houston is 10,000 trees on its way to becoming a prettier city. Carroll Shaddock, an energetic and determined Houston lawyer, can't remember when the importance of street trees became indelible in his mind.
Maybe it was while he was growing up on a tree-lined street in Orange, Texas, or maybe it was while he was going to Houston's Rice University, where he noticed avenues of live oaks. When Mr. Shaddock and his wife, Dorry, eventually settled down in the neighborhood next to Rice University in 1969, he began noting which trees needed replacing and which streets needed trees.
``It's obvious when you walk around the university that someone had planted trees in a formal and organized way,'' said Shaddock. ``You could see that this had been forgotten, so it seemed as if someone ought to do it again.''
In the early '70s, Shaddock organized street tree planting sessions on his block. This effort extended into the next block and then throughout the entire Southampton area, where about 200 trees were planted.
But that wasn't enough for Shaddock.
When he drove down Houston's neglected Main Street on his way to work, he saw himself move from a garden area to what he termed an ``urban desert.''
``I became aware of how inexpensive it is to plant trees,'' he said. ``I was aware that it is something easily done, yet it was not being done.'' SHADDOCK became involved with the Downtown Amenities Committee of the Chamber of Commerce. The group's first effort, a project called Trees for Main Street, was to extend tree planting from Rice University to downtown along Main Street. ``We thought that Main, which had seen bad times, was important,'' said Shaddock. ``We thought we could be cost effective, and that it was important for the cityscape.''
This effort was so successful that it spawned a committee called Trees for Houston. Through the Chamber of Commerce, the group called on developers of new high-rises in downtown Houston and asked them to plant trees around their buildings.
Every year Shaddock personally picked an area of Houston that needed street trees. He worked with the people in the neighborhood, paid for trees, and planted them himself. Sometimes he seemed alone in his quest.
``I felt I was one of the few in the world who thought planting formal street trees was important.'' BUT not for long. Bill Coats, another Houston lawyer, who had been politically active and interested in the committee, came to Shaddock's aid. At this point, Trees for Houston was founded as a nonprofit organization. Mr. Coats became president and Shaddock, chairman. Together they went out and picked the streets that needed trees. Coats called civic clubs and knocked on doors to raise money. If there wasn't enough, he reached into his own pockets.
In the meantime, Jim Rylander, also a lawyer, took the helm of an offshoot project called Trees for Downtown. He raised $700,000 from corporations and individuals, resulting in 2,000 trees for the downtown area.
Last year, Trees for Houston had matured enough to need the services of a full-time paid director. With the help of a foundation grant, Dona Chambers was hired. Working with a 25-member board, she continues to raise money from individuals, companies, and foundations all over the city. She works with areas that want to plant trees and puts out a newsletter.
As for Carroll Shaddock, who happens to be president of the Coalition for Scenic Beauty, a national organization to fight billboards, he still loves nothing better than driving around looking at trees.
``I planted street trees 20 years ago. I see them as relatively mature street trees. It feels wonderful. It only takes 15 years to see the modest effect of what you're doing.''