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Zilker residents fight for unique heritage oak tree

Residents of a South Austin neighborhood are fighting to keep a unique tree in the same spot it’s been for hundreds of years after a city report determined it was structurally damaged and might need to be trimmed back extensively. (CBS Austin)

Residents of a South Austin neighborhood are fighting to keep a unique tree in the same spot it’s been for hundreds of years after a city report determined it was structurally damaged and might need to be trimmed back extensively.

If you’ve ever driven east toward Lamar on Treadwell Street in the Zilker neighborhood, you may have had to dodge a large tree that sticks several feet out into the street.

Residents of the area have given the unique heritage oak tree the name “Moose” for its shape like a moose’s antler.

“They’re beautiful, peaceful and old,” said Mary Barnett, who lives across the street from the tree.

There’s no telling exactly how old the tree is, but arborists estimate it could anywhere from 150-200 years old.

“Before we had air conditioner, we would sit out here, watch the cars go by and just kind of look at the trees,” said Barnett.

Ashley Henneghan, who lives on the same lot as the tree, said she’ll regularly see people stop on the street and admire the protruding urban flora.

“People have taken wedding photos around here,” said Henneghan.

“It feels like a landmark of sorts,” said former Treadwell resident, Amber Gray.

A packet of flyers with a laminated note that reads “Please help save this tree” are strung from the trunk that hangs over the street.

Michael Embesi, an arborist for the City of Austin, said Thursday that a recent report showed structural damage with the tree. He said lateral roots have cracked leaving some to fear it could fall into the street. Embesi said others brought up concerns that emergency vehicles wouldn’t be able to pass through.

“I’ve seen vans hit it, and RVs hit it and it never hurt the tree. The tree always won,” said Barnett.

The property owner said when she bought the home with the tree in her lot, she was able to park her SUV underneath it. Overtime, the trunk started to slump so she bought a stabilizer to prop it up.

She added that days of rain during Hurricane Harvey saturated the ground, adding to fear for the tree’s longevity.

The tree ultimately survived the hurricane, but the property owner fears recommendations from the city or other arborists would call to severely trim the tree, taking away its unique appearance or remove it all together.

The flyer’s attached to “Moose” advertise a meeting to take place at 9 a.m. on Friday Oct. 13 underneath the tree. It stated that “public works, the city arborist, a representative from Council Member Ann Kitchen’s office, and residents are encouraged to come.”

“We need to move out of the way and let this tree live,” said Barnett.

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