City Manager Charles Winfield said the city was “very interested in getting regional coordination together” with cities like West Lake Hills and Austin to combat the spread of oak wilt—a fungal disease that kills up to 90 percent of untreated oak trees—and work with citizens to provide the most informative tips for prevention.
“If [oak wilt is] identified in one city, everyone gets notified,” Winfield said. “We’d be meeting together, so everybody kind of knows what to do. We’d all do the same thing in order to combat oak wilt.”
Besides focusing efforts on establishing a regional committee, the council voted to change the dates residents are banned from trimming or cutting oak trees—a time when experts at the Texas A&M Forest Service say the threat of oak wilt is at its prime. Council members approved lengthening the oak trimming/cutting ban dates from Feb. 5-June 15 to Feb. 1-June 30.
If a resident wants to trim or cut an oak tree during the prohibited period, he or she must get written permission from the city administrator, building official or mayor.
Rollingwood's efforts follow in the footsteps of West Lake Hills City Council's approval March 9 of expanding the dates residents are banned from tree cutting and pruning as well as adding a penalty for residents who violate the law. The city also implemented a fee on building permits that will fund its push to combat oak wilt and added information on its website pertaining to the disease.
West Lake Hills has 7 or 8 known disease centers, said Mayor Linda Anthony. Maps are currently being created to show known areas of oak wilt while the city awaits the results of a utility survey to determine if a 2000-foot trench along Westwood Terrace is possible to help stop oak wilt from spreading, Anthony said.
In Rollingwood, areas north of Hatley Drive and a section near Randolph Place are in need of containment, said Clay Bales, a forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service, who met with Rollingwood council members Feb. 17 to discuss the threat of the disease.
The infected, unincorporated Travis County region of Westwood Terrace may cross over into West Lake Hills as early as next year, said Eric Beckers, Texas A&M Forest Service project forester.
The threats to West Lake Hills have caused city council to look into digging a trench between Westwood Terrace that would help prevent the spread of oak wilt. The trench would sever the root connections, thus creating a barrier to the spread of the disease.
In addition, Rollingwood City Council voted Jan. 27 to add an oak wilt fee which would go toward the cost of preventing oak wilt-to some residential and commercial permits.
While Rollingwood does not have any funds specifically geared toward the prevention and intervention of oak wilt spread and has no current plans to trench, Winfield said both could be possibilities in the future on a regional level, if other cities such as West Lake Hills and Austin are on board.