Rock Beats

NeighborWoods tree planting program brings trees to older neighborhoods

Robert Jeremy with grandson Christian Nevinger

The Parks and Recreation Department has teamed up with community members to bring 86 new trees to 36 residents in the Egger Acres neighborhood for the pilot of the NeighborWoods Street Tree Planting Program. For this program, the City promotes tree planting in mature neighborhoods by partnering with businesses and citizens. Sponsoring businesses donate trees citizens agree to plant and water for at least two years. The city determines if there is planting space, puts flags where the trees would go, and delivers the trees as well as providing information to the residents on how to properly plant and water their new trees.

One of the many benefits of the NeighborWoods program, besides beautification of the neighborhood and environmental benefits, is that the shady trees combat what is known as the Urban Heat Island Effect. Because of the changes in landscape that occur with the development in urban areas, the average temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 2 to 5 degrees warmer than its surroundings. As a result of this increase in temperatures, communities experience an increase in energy consumption, elevated emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, and impaired water quality (EPA, 2011). Shading the pavement is one of the most cost effective techniques to combat these effects. As an added bonus, it is much more enjoyable to walk along a shaded sidewalk.

Funding or a sponsor is a must for this program to succeed and the City already had a connection with Schobels’ Tree Farms, which donated oak and elm trees. The excess trees from other city projects were also used in this program. Oak and elm trees are native to this region, grow well in Texas, and have a long life span. Most of the trees previously in the neighborhood were Arizona Ash trees that grow quickly but also die quickly and were nearing the end of their life cycle. City of Round Rock Forestry Manager, Emsud Horozovic, said the residents were given a choice because “a diversity of species avoids the issue of losing all the trees should a species-specific disease, like Oak Wilt or Wetwood, hit one.”

Bev Minica, a resident of Egger Acres, originally brought this program to Horozovic’s attention. Minica has been concerned about neighborhood deterioration for several years and searching for appropriate projects. During her search for solutions, she found the Tree Folks website which informed her about the NeighborWoods program. She contacted the Tree Folks Executive Director, April Rose, and was put in touch with Horozovic, who was happy to help her with the project.

Minica’s next step was community involvement. With the help of her family, she created a flier and walked the entire neighborhood of Egger Acres, 338 homes in all, to put fliers on every door. Her neighbors were ready and willing to participate. She compiled a list of residents who contacted her about the project for Horozovic. Along with his forestry team, Horozovic examined the planting sites of the willing residents to ensure they comply with project specifications – trees must be planted in the front yard within 10 feet of the curb. Homeowners whose properties abide by these conditions were e-mailed a confirmation notice with the delivery date of their trees. In the future, the city’s Forestry Department will periodically check on the progress of the trees in the neighborhood.

Minica and Horozovic would like to expand this program to other mature neighborhoods in Round Rock, if possible.

“This is all good will and good deed,” Horozovic said. “You need to have somebody on the ground in that neighborhood who is willing to work unselfishly for many hours to make a difference.”

For Egger Acres, Bev Minica was that person. Community involvement is a necessity for this program to flourish and expand and at least 30-50 participants is ideal. Everyone who has participated so far has been grateful for NeighborWoods. Some people in the Egger Acres community were unable to plant their own trees and their neighbors volunteered to help. As Minica said of the program in her neighborhood, “It’s just a lot of good feelings.”