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Group working to replant Bastrop

Tree Folks trying to get pine trees planted

Updated: Friday, 26 Jul 2013, 10:29 PM CDT
Published : Friday, 26 Jul 2013, 9:24 PM CDT
Ignacio Garcia

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) – It’s been almost two years since the Bastrop County Labor Day wildfires which ranked as one of the worst wildfires in state history.

Two people were killed, nearly 1,700 homes burned and tens of thousands of acres were scorched.

Bastrop State Park and some major subdivisions were inside the fire perimeter. A drive down Texas Highway 71 still shows the effects, with burn scar highly visible.

While the memories of the fire will always have their mark on the area, there’s a real effort in the county to not just rebuild, but also to replant.

“From the driveway to the front of the house,” said Lydia Gonzalez, remembering how the trees used to line her yard. “That is why a lot of people moved out here because of the trees it was just so private, so secluded and you felt a sense of security.”

But that security blanket is now gone. An estimated 34,000 acres of land burned. Now Tree Folks , a local non-profit, wants locals to help them get pine trees growing again.

“We sent out about 3000 applications and we’ve only received about 20 percent of the applications back,” said Carly Blankenship with Tree Folks.

The planting of the trees represent getting the land back to normal, but it also represents emotional healing. Planting seeds for future generations to enjoy the beauty of what brought them here to begin with.

Mike Fisher says part of the challenge is getting people to accept what’s happened and set up new roots again.

“We need not to continue to be fearful we need to be vigilant,” said Mike Fisher, emergency management coordinator in Bastrop County. “We need to be proactive. We need to take measures to avert a similar tragedy in the future.”

Meantime, as Lydia walks and reminisces about her towering trees, she knows these loblolly pine seedlings will grow tall for future generations to enjoy.

“I’m here, my house survived so, you know, God’s been good to me,” she said.

Just last month the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved nearly $1.5 million to protect against future wildfires.

The University of Texas – MD Anderson Cancer Center Science Park at Smithville is using the money to move vegetation to better protect existing buildings from fires.

As for Bastrop State Park itself, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is growing saplings to be replanted. Their goal is to produce 30,000 new pine trees.

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