22 July 2010

One Tree, Two Tree...

...three tree, free tree....

Yesterday the City of Austin stopped by and planted three yellow flags in our yard:


Well actually, they planted them in the right-of-way, which in our case is the first eighteen feet back from the curb. Here's a close-up:


And they left this at our door:


As you may recall, we've been planning to put some kind of oak tree in our front yard. We had planned to plant it last winter, but construction ended up taking over the entire yard, so there was no way a tree would have survived. There's no point planting trees in Austin during the summer, so the tree plan was pushed back to this coming winter (along with the rest of the landscaping). It was a terrific surprise to find that the city wants to give us trees -- just the kind we were wanting to buy -- as long as we'll plant them where they want...hence the yellow flags. All we have to do is mail the card back, and sometime between October and March (ideal planting time), they'll drop off up to three trees of our choice (our options are live oak, lacey oak, chinquapin oak, and elm). We do have to plant them, though, and promise to water them about weekly for two years...which we would do for any tree we bought, so no problem there. We already had plans for next weekend to go to a talk by the arborist we consulted last summer (so we could ask him afterward for a landscape designer referral), so we'll also ask him which kind of tree(s) he recommends.

The locations are all in the right-of-way so they will provide shade to the street (and, eventually, some morning shade on the house, but mostly for the street). As we learned when the neighborhood association had the city arborist as a guest speaker last fall, a good tree canopy is an important part of keeping the entire city cooler, since the dark street would otherwise absorb tons of heat from the sun. As we've learned, the city of Austin and the city-owned utility company, Austin Energy, are very forward-thinking in terms of reducing the need for electricity so they don't have to build another power plant. I didn't know about this program until they dropped off the flags and card (how did they find us? Building permit records?), but I'm not at all surprised that Austin would have such a program.

I apologize, City of Austin, for all of the bad things I've said about you over the last year. Except for the bad things that were warranted...which is pretty much all of them. (In all fairness, the bad things have pretty much all been about the building permit department. Although you'd think they would work together, there's quite a contrast between Austin Energy and the permitting folks.)

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