TreeFolks, an organization that works with communities throughout Central Texas on tree planting and reforestation efforts, was granted $198,000 toward continuing a Hays County assessment and implementation program called Trees for the Blanco.
In September 2015, Hays County entered into the initial agreement with TreeFolks which began the restoration program. Since its established partnership, TreeFolks has received over $700,000 from Hays County in support of local recovery efforts, Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe said.
Hays County Chief of Staff Clint Garza said more than 230,000 cubic yards of debris have been removed from the banks of the Blanco River following the flood. Over 200 private landowners were aided by the TreeFolks program; another 50 to 75 landowners are left to be helped.
“The small trees we plant will bend as they grow and disperse the water,” TreeFolks reforestation manager Andreina Alexatos said. “They won’t get washed away if another flood were to happen because of their flexibility to slow down the water. The planted trees will help contain the water in the river and keep the bank from expending. We have sped up the natural process of vegetation growth, knocking off about 10 years. This will be the last year of the program.”
Addressing citizen concerns about public funds being used on private property, Commissioner Lon Shell said it was important for the county to step up in a time of need that affects public health and safety.
“Restoration of the river is important so that we can preserve it and enjoy it, and our children and grandchildren can enjoy it,” Shell said. “I believe Hays County stepped up in a time when it was needed. This is something that had to be done. I don’t know many property owners that could have put together a program like this to remove that debris. So, if we didn’t do it, I don’t think it would have been done. And if it wouldn’t have been done, Hays County would have been a worse place because of it.”
The 2015 Memorial Day flood caused multiple deaths and massive property damage to homes along the Blanco River in Hays County. The river rose more than 10 feet above previous record levels within hours of the 13 inches of rainfall.
With help from Hays County and other sponsors, including State Bar of Texas, Impact Austin, H-E-B, David Weekley Homes, Apache, Arbor Day Foundation and the Learning Pear, TreeFolks has planted over 140,000 trees along 20 miles of the Blanco River.