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HOUSTON Volunteers on Saturday kicked off the Arbor Day weekend by planting trees at local parksto replace thosedamaged by last year s historic drought.

As a part of the 26th Annual Arbor Day Tree Planting Event, volunteers planted around 25,000 trees at Memorial, Mason, Hermann and MacGregor parks.

According to officials, the record-setting drought killed about 10,000 trees at Memorial Park, where planting trees had been a stumbling block until armies of volunteers showed up Saturday.

We re saving the word, said a group of children from Houston s ILM Academy.

Those children used their mighty muscles to dig. Help came in buckets. The Apache Company donated nearly 20,000 seedlings.

The Stivers drove in from Spring to help plant.

He carries the tree, digs the hole and I stand there and encourage, said Tina Stivers.

Mayor Annise Parker pitched in. So did others, like Shirley Parker, who broke morning jogging routines to work. They are concerned about all the damage done by drought.

Normally, you don t hear the traffic, Parker said. You hear bits and pieces of it. But it was so pronounced a couple weeks ago, I (said) I have to get out here and do something to give back.

Houston Parks maintenance is still busy cutting and clearing dead trees from parks. With no budget to buy or plant new trees, donations and volunteers are the only ways to restore Memorial Park.

It s priceless all the help, said Joe Pierucci, Houston Parks west division manager.

According to Trees for Houston, it s estimated that one in 10 trees in the Houston area will die within two years because of the drought, which could lower the city s air quality and make it warmer.

Visit the Houston Parks and Recreation Department website for maps and volunteer information.

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