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Fewer trees at Barton Springs now likely to be removed

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

We’ve heard a lot about the 30 trees that will be removed from Barton Springs. It turns out that the number might actually be much lower than that. But it can be difficult to really get a handle on how many trees are actually slated for removal.

 

Austin‘s Urban Forestry Program Manager Walter Passmore told In Fact Daily that PARD is “considering 30 trees for removal. That doesn’t mean that 30 trees are getting removed, that’s … one of the options.”

 

He said the department hoped that “far fewer” than that would eventually need to be removed. Passmore did say, “we’re doing something with thirty trees,” and other options could include access restrictions, pruning, a combination of treatment to reduce the risk of the tree “failing.”

 

Passmore said for 22 of the 24 trees, removal was the primary option. “Out of that, for 18 trees the only option was removal.” He then said that 14 of those 18 had what he characterized as “fall back” recommendations. “Removal is really the only option we see, but if you choose not to remove them we think you should really do some serious pruning and other treatments and risk reductions.”

 

The Davey Report, commissioned last fall, studied a number of trees in the Barton Springs Pool area. “We found the report to be inaccurate, and we have requested staff to correct the inaccuracies in the Davey Report,” Parks and Recreation Board Chair Linda Guerrero told In Fact Daily. She said that different parts of the Davey Report call for different solutions for the same tree. Guerrero said it appeared that “there’s at least five to seven that really urgently need to be removed.” She added that most of the trees had other options.

 

On Friday Parks and Recreation Department Director Sara Hensley sent out a memo that created further confusion by marking the wrong tree for an expedited removal review.

 

Hensley’s memo to the Mayor and Council says that staff brought “concerns about the pecan tree at the Zilker Playground (Tree #6 in the Davey Report).” However, Tree #6 was not the actual tree she meant to reference, a fact brought to light by a response from Save Our Springs Executive Director Bill Bunch.

 

In an email to Hensley and council and their staff, Bunch pointed out that tree, “is identified as a ‘healthy’ tree in the Davey report. It should not be removed and certainly not on an expedited basis.” He points out that Tree #7, located in the playground is perhaps the designated tree, as SOS’s own arborist has recommended further study of it due to some warning signs of the tree’s health.

 

Bunch wrote that the error is disconcerting. “Marking this tree for expedited removal further calls into question the thoughtfulness and care given by PARD staff in its recommendations concerning the Barton Springs trees.”

 

Hensley confirmed with In Fact Daily that Tree #7 is the one up for review. “It was an honest mistake, but certainly not a good one,” she said. “We’re not going to be taking that tree down, we’re just going to be reevaluating that tree with some other experts.” Bunch’s email requests that arborist Don Gardner be allowed to further evaluate the tree and two others.

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