Pease Park Conservancy originally got its start as Trees for Pease in 2008. The focus of the group was saving the existing trees, which had been degraded over time and were suffering from a prolonged drought. Eventually that led to planting new native trees, organizing volunteer workdays to remove invasive species, and hiring certified arborists to prune heritage trees in Pease Park.
With the help of local arborist Don Gardner, the Siglo Group, and WRT the Conservancy developed a comprehensive Natural Resources Appendix to the Master Plan. This report includes a tree inventory, identifies hazardous trees, maps the location of invasive species, and sets out a plan to increase the tree canopy from 65% to 80%.
The Conservancy now looks to implement recommendations in this thorough Appendix. The Urban Forestry Grant Program is funded by fees paid by developers and other citizens for cutting down heritage trees. This money is paid into the fund as mitigation for their removal. It is then made available to non-profits, citizen’s groups, neighborhood associations and schools who file applications that demonstrate a clear benefit to the urban canopy or trees on public land. Fortunately, the Conservancy has already been awarded upwards of $55,000 to perform work in the Greenbelt that will go a long way towards improving the health and longevity of this important urban tree canopy.
One of the chief recommendations of the Natural Resources Section of the Master Plan (Appendix A6) was the systematic removal of invasive species from the park and adjacent portions of the Greenbelt. These non-natives outcompete many native species and create a much less diverse and consequently, a degraded environment for animals, insects, and bird life.
Using the City's list of "Least Wanted" invasive species, the Conservancy has been awarded funding to remove invasives in the Greeneblt from Gaston Avenue to 31st Street. Ligustrum in particular form dense monoculture woodland shading out other trees and plant life. Chinaberry trees are prolific seed producers and have also been extremely successful in even the worst drought conditions. Austin Forestry estimates that they may constitute 10% of the city’s tree canopy. Chinese Tallow, Trees of Heaven, Privet and Parasol round out the list of invasives to be targeted. They all need to be removed in order to achieve the environmental restoration goals envisioned by the Master Plan for this part of the Shoal Creek Greenbelt. The objective is a transformed woodland in which native trees and plants have an opportunity to thrive once again. It is richly deserving of the best ecological restoration our community can muster.
First impressions matter! That is the case with the current effort to beautify the Lamar Boulevard streetscape along Shoal Creek with the planting of 28 Live Oaks by the City's Public Works Department. The new Live Oaks can be found at the northwest corner of 29th/Lamar, near the Optimist Christmas Tree Lot, and just south of T3 at MLK/Lamar. This opportunity for civic greatness was first recognized in the 1928 City Plan. These early planners called for a park and boulevard system that would facilitate transportation but also highlight the aesthetic beauty of Austin’s natural setting.
The Master Plan calls for the beautification of the Lamar Boulevard corridor that passes through the Shoal Creek Greenbelt and Pease Park. It also identifies that the periphery of this beautiful parkland is as important to the visitor experience as the park’s interior.
One of the key recommendations in Don Gardener's Trees of Pease Report in the Master Plan is to increase woodland diversity. Many years ago, Bald Cypress were prevalent along the banks of Shoal Creek. Floods and commercial use of the wood depleted the community, but a few majestic trees remain.
The Conservancy has received funding to re-introduce Bald Cypress to the banks of Shoal Creek. With the help of Austin Tree Experts, ten-15 gallon Bald Cypress will be planted between the northern Shoal Creek Boulevard Bridge and the Janet Fish Bridge.
Not only will this improve woodland diversity, but the best thing for wildlife in Shoal Creek’s riparian zone and in-stream habitat is to protect and encourage riparian trees like Bald Cypress. Areas where trees hang over the water make for suitable habitat for native and migratory bird species.
Another highlight of Don Gardener's Trees of Pease Report is the recommendation that the tree canopy needs additional care if it is to prosper. It's well-known that the Austin Urban Forestry Department has been underfunded for many years and estimates it has only been able to give the average tree attention every 99 years.
This chronic lack of public resources has left many trees with unaddressed issues; including dead, dangerous, or diseased branches and snags or hangers near the busy Shoal Creek Trail. Structural pruning helps a tree be the best specimen that it can be, improving its health, appearance, and lifespan. Additionally, some dead trees near the trail pose a threat to the safety of the public and need to be removed.