Johnny Appleseed in Reverse

… aka, Paul Bunyon comes to Hyde Park.

One of the big selling points for old Austin neighborhoods is the tree canopy that lines the streets with the ultimate green building accessory. On a quiet night, some urban neighborhoods feel almost rural when you stroll through … until cut-through traffic brings an abrupt end to your leisurely reverie. But the traffic is nothing compared to the ruckus that Austin Energy is stirring up with its latest tree trimming efforts. Residents of Hyde Park and a few other areas have noticed the ribbons going up around the area, indicating that the saw is about to fall on some limbs that are loitering suspiciously close to power lines.

Utility tree trimming is nothing new, and everybody loves a tree until it cuts their power during a storm, so this usually isn’t such a big deal. Or maybe its safer to say that its now become a bigger deal, since Austin Energy is crafting their cuts to accommodate a 20-year cycle, meaning that some big trees are getting felled more than trimmed. Given the complaints over previous AE trimming efforts on a 5-year cycle, it goes without saying that a lot of property owners are none too pleased about losing a primary part of their curb appeal.

This is late notice, but if you live in Hyde Park, Hancock, or Eastwoods and can get to Hyde Park Methodist Church (4001 Speedway) in 40 minutes, you can attend a meeting between Austin Energy staff and the neighborhood tree task force. Even though this meeting concerns Hyde Park, I expect other “close in” neighborhoods will be similarly affected soon enough.

7 Comments so far

  1. inky (unregistered) on January 18th, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

    To me, what sucks the most is that I don’t know where else we’re supposed to grow trees except under or near power lines. In my neighborhood, power lines are everywhere the houses are not.

    An Austin Energy rep told me that pink signifies removal, while yellow means trim.

  2. inky (unregistered) on January 18th, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

    Austin Energy’s website still cites a 4-year trimming schedule:

  3. wae (unregistered) on January 18th, 2006 @ 5:25 pm

    I wasn’t at the meeting, but a Hyde Parker who was confirmed that it was indeed a contentious event, in no small part because of some boneheaded reasoning from Austin Energy.

    The story goes that AE suffered a great many outages due to trees that were only being trimmed reactively. The solution: be proactive. This might make sense, except AE decides to move the mountain to Mohammed by trimming anything that might touch a power line within 20 years. If this aggressive trimming might devastate a tree, AE will simply cut the whole thing down. See, problem solved!

    Austin Energy’s salve for this controversy is to educate the public through public discourse, but their approach thus far is the equivalent of teaching English by yelling slowly at foreigners. There will be some sort of presentation to council (next week?) on the issue to help moderate the situation, so perhaps some of this bureaucratic silliness can be resolved.

    In the meantime, I expect to see Robert DeNiro jump through the window and start fixing things.

  4. ttrentham (unregistered) on January 18th, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

    They pulled the same shit in my neighborhood about three years ago. They claimed they were being proactive and on the first pass wanted to remove half the trees in my backyard. Of course, they don’t actually remove the stumps, just cut them down to the ground.

    It dragged on for several months, but I finally got them to see reason and they trimmed back some of the trees instead of removing them altogether. I don’t think they were claiming a 20 year plan then, but they said that they’d been too reactive in the past. I suppose it takes them a while to get to all the neighborhoods. I may still have the e=mail correspondence from that time period at work.

  5. inky (unregistered) on January 19th, 2006 @ 11:16 am

    My neighbor has a pink tag (slated for removal) on a PEACH TREE. Somebody needs to have their roll of pink ribbon taken away.

  6. wae (unregistered) on January 20th, 2006 @ 9:12 am

    I’ve heard from several neighbors that their previous battles with AE were resolved through some combination of:
    1) threatening to sue (especially over complete removal of a prominant tree)
    2) being vigilant (but not a vigilante) and watching their every move around your trees
    3) hiring an arborist to observe / conduct the trimmings

    … which is all well and good, but seems awfully ridiculous that both sides have to jump through these hoops. Why not make tree clearance a property owner’s responsibility, with Austin Energy monitoring and ticketing for non-compliance? They could still be “proactive” in seeking trouble spots, but let the owner decide (and pay for) whatever level of care they prefer.

  7. ttrentham (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

    It appears that when it’s Hyde Park that’s threatened, it’s time for a “Task Force”.

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