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New public-funded program looks to cast welcome shade at Hemisfair

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Hemisfair rendering of an area they're calling "The Shallows"

Redevelopment of downtown's Hemisfair Park is moving into phase two, which includes the planting of new trees. The project is focused on the park's northern and westernmost ends.

“We are building the second park of the Hemisfair three park series called the Civic Park,” explained Anne Krause, the president of the Hemisfair Conservancy. “And its footprint is the former space where the western wing of the convention center used to be.”

Seven years ago, the west end of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center was torn down, and the building was extended on its east end.

Now, Hemisfair begins in earnest the building of Civic Park in that space.

A series of workshops to gather public input early on produced a clear message: “The resounding themes we have gotten are the desire for gathering space and trees, shade and water. In South Texas we need a lot of shade to be comfortable,” Krause said.

The Hemisfair Conservancy also invites members of the community to sponsor the trees they’re going to plant.

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Civic Park is the area in the upper left above the diagonal line

“The trees are a six inch caliper and they are roughly 20 to 30 years old, depending on species,” Krause said. “We have pecans. We have Texas Persimmon, Anaquas, Southern Magnolias, Mexican Sycamores and all types of oaks going in. And they have beautiful canopies already.”

When they're planted, the trees will already be big enough to cast shade, and cool those below them.
“We are asking people who care about offsetting the heat island effect as well as just making the area more green and beautiful and providing shade that will last for generations to make a contribution of any size,” she said. “We realize that people have different budgets, and every gift that someone gives the Hemisfair Conservancy for trees will be put specifically toward that program.”

Civic Park with the tree plan plotted out per species

Rather than installing bronze plaques in front of each tree, they’re posting QR codes on the trees, which will link to more information about the people who sponsored that particular tree.

“If you wanted to plant a tree in honor or in memory of someone, you could put that picture up as well as a tribute message,” Krause said. “And in addition to that, there's also information about the species of tree, how old it is.”

The cost of each tree is $7,000, but donors don’t necessarily have to give that much. The tribute messages will honor people who give any amount of donation.

“Our plan is to add two hundred of these mature trees to Civic Park before it opens to the public in the fall of 2023,” she said.

Planting begins when the weather cools down and the trees are dormant.

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