Palmetto Multi-Sensory Trail Getting New Life Thanks to HISD Students


Ovidio Henriquez (left), who will be a senior this fall at Challenge Early College High School, hauls a log with a student from Aldine ISD on the Palmetto Multi-Sensory Trail.

Source: Houston ISD

Teens in Student Conservation Association program hope to complete work at Arboretum by August 10

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center (HANC) visitors will be able to enjoy one of its newest—and most inclusive—attractions once again this fall, thanks to the efforts of dozens of hard-working high school students.

More than 10,000 Houston-area school children take field trips to the HANC facility every year, but the Palmetto Multi-Sensory Trail, which opened just last summer, has been closed to visitors since June due to damage from the drought.

“The Palmetto trail is one of the few ways that visually impaired students can really experience a forest setting by themselves,” explained HANC Conservation Director Joe Blanton. “It’s the only one of its kind in the southern half of the United States.”

Teens from 10 different HISD high schools (as well as other school districts) have been working diligently for weeks to complete repairs to the third-of-a-mile-long trail, by stripping logs of bark, positioning them along the trail’s edges, and reinstalling the guide ropes that allow visually impaired visitors to move along the trail unaided at their own pace.

“The Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) summer program gives students with no real outdoor experience a taste of what it’s like to work on environmental projects,” said SCA Houston Program Coordinator Andy Janes. “We visit a number of local parks and nature areas, and learn about tool maintenance, trail building, and community gardening, among other skills. By engaging these students in hands-on service to the land, we are helping to build up Houston’s next generation of conservation leaders.”

In addition to the Summer Community Crews (a paid summer job), SCA offers a volunteer school-year program, National Conservation Crews (three-to-five-week summer sessions in national parks all over the country), and internships in all 50 states.

HISD students participating in the Summer Community Crews this year came from Austin, Bellaire, Challenge Early College, DeBakey, Jones, Jordan, Lamar, Lee, and Sharpstown high schools, as well as the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center.

The Palmetto Multi-Sensory Trail is expected to reopen by the time the last student crews complete their three-week session on August 10.

Student Conservation Association