Oak Hill, Austin, TX: More than two hundred great oak trees stand to be damaged or lost if TxDOT moves ahead with the Oak Hill Parkway project as currently designed. An independent tree survey by Oak Hill resident Gerry Powell has documented and photographed 288 oak trees in the path of proposed expansion of US 290 West and SH 71 along Williamson Creek.
Save Oak Hill, a grassroots group that formed out of concern for the rapid loss of treasured Oak Hill landmarks will hold a rally this Saturday to call attention to the endangered oaks. These include 114 trees in the “protected” category of 19 inches or more in diameter, 137 trees of the “heritage” category of 24 inches or more, and 37 of the “legacy” category of 36 inches or more.
The public is invited to stop by and join the rally at the northeast corner of William Cannon and Hwy 290 this Saturday 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Save Oak Hill promises a view of the photographic “tree tour” provided by Powell combined with maps based on the TxDOT schematics to show the impact of highway on trees. The organization also aims to engage professional assistance in exploring potential for a public park to preserve the historic center of Oak Hill and will be accepting donations for the effort. A virtual tour of the trees is also available online at http://SaveOakHill.org/tour/.
TxDOT is now engaged in a federally mandated environmental impact study to measure the extent of this and other impacts from two selected highway options. A careful examination of these two options called Alternatives A and C shows that neither is good for the trees. While the engineers have attempted to avoid loss of some of the more famous trees, including the iconic Grandmother Oak and the Taco Bell tree, the sheer width of the highway and requirements of elevation combined with access ramps dictate that most of these will be removed or severely damaged by proximity to construction and pavement.
“We have been talking to TxDOT for a long time,” said Carol Cespedes, Oak Hill resident active in the Save Oak Hill group. “They have made some adjustments, but the result hasn’t much changed. The current plans will reduce Oak Hill to a name on the map – without its historic oaks.”
Environmental leader Steve Beers of the Save Barton Creek Association is forthright in his criticism. “TxDOT is evading the federal mandate for “context sensitive design” by ignoring the great trees of Oak Hill.”
About Save Oak Hill: Save Oak Hill is a coalition of neighbors seeking to enhance and preserve the rich community history and unique natural features of the place we call home.
TxDOT’s “Oak Hill Parkway” is not a parkway, but an elevated toll road threatening to forever change our creek and our community. We believe Williamson Creek and our centuries-old heritage trees are treasures worth preserving for our community.
More information is available at our website: SaveOakHill.org