2 million. That is how many trees TreeFolks has planted in Central Texas since being founded in 1989. TreeFolks mission is to empower Central Texans to build stronger communities through planting and caring for trees. In our interview with TreeFolks Executive Director, Thais Perkins, we learn how TreeFolks is making this mission possible through community building, education, reforestation, and urban forest building.
Trees in urban settings like Austin clean the air, filter pollution, slow flooding, and provide shade. Trees give us a sense of place – people who move here tend to cite Austin’s green landscape as one of the main reason’s they’re drawn here. The urban forest is under increasing pressure from drought and ongoing development, so the attraction of Austin may be a victim of its own success. It’s up to us to preserve existing trees and plant new ones where we can.
Do you see any effects from the constant construction and expansion of Austin’s urban areas?
Austin is notable, as is much of the rest of Texas, because of successful economic development. As the city evolves, our green spaces must be protected and need to evolve as well cope with the growing urban areas. As building expands, resulting in more ground that cannot soak up water or support plants, the urban heat island expands and we experience more stormwater runoff. Trees are an important and inexpensive way to mitigate many impacts from development. In addition, many of the trees that are removed for new development are hundreds of years old, and trees grow very slowly in Texas’ climate. It is critical to preserve them.
What can Austinites do today that will contribute to the preservation of the Austin environment?
Plant trees and protect the ones we already have. TreeFolks distributes over 4,200 trees a year to Austin homeowners through a partnership with the City of Austin. So if anyone is interested in planting their own tree give us a call and we can help you with figuring out what kind of tree would best fit within your home’s environment, and we’ll give you tips on how to keep your tree healthy.
Are there any cool projects being worked on now, or that are planned for this coming year?
We are currently implementing a plan to help the homeowners along the Blanco River in Hays County who were impacted by the floods in 2015, in a program meant to plant hundreds of thousands of trees along 61 miles of the Blanco.
In Austin, we are also working on expanding educational activities for kids, such as our free, fun, family Tree ID Walks. We are looking to make them more accessible for different skill levels, and to increase our bilingual offerings. TreeFolks is also looking to help build an outdoor toolshed and learning center, which will provide a place for people to learn how to care for trees.
Any closing comments or thoughts?
Give 5 is a fantastic opportunity to support Central Texas’ environment through a fun night out with friends. I hope folks also use the opportunity to learn a little more about all of the organizations here in Austin that work to make our environment sustainable for future generations.