Williamson Creek, a poem from ATLAS Crew

The Destruction and Creation of Williamson Creek

As I walk along the woodchip-strewn pathIMG_8166
I gaze about the work that we have done –
Hundreds of invasives chipped in a week
Opening the forest floor to the sun.
Our trail will be the pride of this city
The families living nearby will agree
But what about the ones who lived here once
That made their homes within ligustrum trees?
Traces of people kicked out earlier
Branches bent to build their only shelter
We took it all apart and chopped it up
Just so we could make this place look better.
Maybe some day they’ll see the work we did
And walk along this same path that I do
The ecosystem thanks us for the change
I hope the old inhabitants will, too.

Arkansas Bend Park, Notes from Polar Pack

January 2020

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Polar Pack spent the week on a five day hitch at Arkansas Bend Park in Lago Vista, Texas. A seemingly standard project turned out to be a turning point in our season as we welcomed three new members.

With only chainsaws on our tool list, we set out to cut corridor for a new trail following the edge of a peninsula. It was definitely a challenge working on the side of a hill, but worth it for the views of the lake. Be careful: loose rocks & plenty of cactus!

Tortilla soup & fuzzy socks were my best friends on this hitch as temperatures dropped below freezing. You can always find our crew huddled around the warm kettle on cold mornings like those.

Our new members, Nico, AB, and Albert, fit in seamlessly. Their excitement was contagious, and gave our ragtag crew some new motivation. By the end of the week, hair was being braided, stories were being told around the fire, and inside jokes were already forming. I, for one, am very proud to be a part of this misfit crew.

Planting for Carbon Credit with TreeFolks, Notes from Polar Pack

This past week Polar Pack had the great opportunity to work with TreeFolks, an Austin-based nonprofit dedicated to local habitat restoration.  On Monday Polar Pack met with Valeri Tamburri, an enthusiastic TXCC alumna. Valeri informed us that we would sort and prepare 50,000 trees for the 2020-planting season. Additionally, our crew would plant 1,300 saplings. 

Though the task seemed daunting at first, it was for a worthy cause. Valeri explained that we were contributing to TreeFolks’s new carbon credit initiative. The City of Austin has a carbon neutrality goal. To balance its carbon emissions, Austin can buy carbon credits. The math is complicated. Simply put, a single acre of land with trees on it retains a measurable amount of carbon and provides a measurable amount of shade. These factors along with others are used to calculate the credit of an acre of land. The City of Austin can then buy the carbon credits from TreeFolks to offset its carbon emissions. Other cities and even countries buy and sell carbon credits. The TreeFolks program, however, is unique, in that the carbon credits are sourced locally! 

Polar Pack spent most of the week counting and mixing saplings in buckets and crates. We shoveled mulch and unloaded plant deliveries. Plant species included pecan trees, bald cypresses, catalpa, retama, brazil wood, acanthus, and beauty berry, Mexican buckeye, Texas persimmon, and many more. For three days we used dibble bars and rock bars to plant upland and wetland trees at sites around Austin. Our fastest planters were Mel and our newest Polar Pack member, Nico! Planting life was a welcome change from sawing invasive species and applying herbicide. 

Wild Basin, Notes from Blue Crew

Mid-January 2020
This week blue crew was working at Wild Basin wilderness preserve just outside of Austin. We were resurfacing the Arroyo Vista Trail removing the erosion prone decomposed granite and replacing it with staylock which is decomposed granite mixed with wax.
We first removed all of the old tread and then raked in the staylock and tamped it with a motorized tamper. We also extended a hand rail on a bridge with on site sourced ash juniper to make it more safe. Finally we added 2 check steps at the bottom of the entrance to the visitors center to prevent more erosion and make the walk easier for the visitors.
This was a very tough project with a lot of tedious raking and leveling and with a dwindling supply of staylock we had to adequately cover the trail to the correct depth as well as cover the whole trail. Overall it was a fun learning experience for us all and we hope for more trail projects in the future.

Balcones Canyonlands #2, Notes from Blew Crew

January 2020

This week we worked on creating shaded fuel breaks at Balcones Canyonland Preserve. We removed low limbs and small diameter trees under the canopy, focusing specifically on Ashe Juniper and Live Oak species. This work was done with the goal of preventing the possible spread of fire between the natural preserve land and resident properties or roads. The cut brush was then chipped and spread to be less than two inches in depth to avoid creating piles of fuel.

San Antonio Missions Historical Park, Notes from Blue Crew

December 2019

After a nice Thanksgiving break, Blue Crew started off the first week of December on a hitch to the San Antonio Missions Historical Park. Before meeting with our project partner, we explored the San Juan Historical site and learned a lot about the foundation the Tejano culture that blended the early Spanish and native cultures distinct to South Texas.

Afterwards, we started our first day with lopping the infamous bamboo and applying herbicide. The next day, we traveled to Floresville, TX for our second project to chainsaw larger mesquite trees and applied herbicide to clear up the space around the trail. Different vibes between the projects but we were about to learn a lot about applying different herbicides to other invasive grasses and woody plants.

Additionally, we got plant some native grasses such as Switchgrass and Eastern Gamagrass back at San Juan. We ended the hitch with our last day at Mission Concepción where we continued lopping and applying more herbicide to bamboo and other invasive trees.

Kind of crazy to think there would be bamboo growing in Texas where there are no wild pandas. Hopefully, our efforts to eliminate this invasive species among others will contribute to the growing native grasses for the San Antonio Missions ecosystem.

Balcones Canyonlands, Notes from Blue Crew

November 2019

This week we were back on Hitch in the Balcones Canyonlands. 

We were there protecting local residents from wildfires by creating a shaded fuel break removing large amounts of low hanging cedar trees and other brush. 

The dimensions for a shaded fuel break are 30 feet back everything hanging 6ft or below, or anything smaller than 10-foot-tall and 4 inches in diameter is removed. This enables a break in fuel so that if a wildfire were to occur it can’t spread across this low fueled area and so the houses are protected, this works in reverse where if a house fire or an out of control BBQ occurs the forest is also protected. 

The cut material was then chipped and re-spread to less than 2inches deep to the same areas putting the nutrients back into the soil. 

The cabin in the woods we were very kindly loaned for our group meals by the Balcones Canyonland preservation  ☺