By Nell Newton
What will it take to reforest the Blanco River successfully? Only Nature knows for sure, but TreeFolks reforestation staff Matt Mears and Andreina Alexatos are trying to mimic her methods and observe which strategies work best.
As part of our initial work along the Blanco, TreeFolks is conducting ongoing pilot projects to test the logistics of our plans. We held our first Hays County volunteer event in late February at Five Mile Dam Park where 57 volunteers planted over 900 saplings along the river and upland banks. Among the many species planted that day were bald cypress, roughleaf dogwood, sycamore, and cedar elm.
These four are the primary species we’ll use in all of our plantings along the river because they are readily available from nursery growers and are native to the Blanco River habitat. We’ll also plant a variety of other species to ensure a diverse, bank-stabilizing, river habitat. Still, the vast majority of the trees we plant throughout the project will be the majestic bald cypress that give the Blanco its unique character and soft shade.
Over the summer we’ll experiment with watering some of the saplings and letting Nature water the rest of the test plots. We’ll track their survival and determine if watering significantly increases survival rates.
The big planting events won’t begin until October when cooler temperatures blow in. In the meantime, we’ll host a handful of volunteer events to water the pilot sites, and continue educating and consulting with land owners who want to participate in the Blanco River Reforestation Project.
If you are a land owner waiting for replanting to begin, you might be asking yourself, “What can I do in the meantime?” Well… don’t just do something, sit there and let the grass grow! Grass roots are nice and deep and dense and do an excellent job of catching and holding soil in place. Without grass you won’t have soil and without soil you can’t have trees, so the best thing to do is let the grass grow up along the river.
For more information about the Blanco River Reforestation Project, to apply for reforestation services, or to make a donation to buy trees to help the river heal, visit BlancoTrees.org.