Why an Austin wilderness preserve is trashing a Christmas tradition

Austin's Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve says no to tradition of decorating trees along Loop 360. (Photo: Bettie Cross)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas along Austin's Loop 360. Hundreds of trees are being decked out for the holidays on the Capital of Texas Highway in West Austin. It's a welcome sight for many, but not for the folks at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. They’re hanging signs asking Austin's elves to back off.

Austin is starting to get its jingle on. Up and down Loop 360 bells and bows, balls and beads are transforming miles of juniper green into a landscape as colorful as a box of crayons.

“Lots of them blow off, definitely,” said Aaron Haynes who works at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve near West Lake Hills.

The preserve backs up to Loop 360 near Bee Caves Road.

“Here's some of the tinsel from the garland,” said Haynes. “And here’s a plate that blew off.”

It's his job to help preserve Wild Basin's natural beauty and that can be a chore in December.

“It is hard and we don't want to rain on anyone's parade or be the Grinch. But we do have a job to keep these areas really pristine and clean,” said Haynes.

Which is why Wild Basin started decorating its trees with these signs. 227 acres of Hill Country habitat is saying no to holiday bling. It's not that Haynes wants to come off as a Christmas curmudgeon, but he also doesn't want decorations being washed into Bee Creek or blowing across the acreage and harming the wildlife.

“The tinsel, I think birds could confuse for nesting material,” said Haynes. “Raccoons like shiny things. They could get wrapped up in some of the decorations that wrap around the tree. And, for me, the biggest problem is the glass bulbs. They are harder to pick up and pick out of the grass and dirt.”

Anyone who ignores the nicely-worded warnings will likely see their Christmas tradition trashed.

“We'd rather pick it up before it blows into the preserve,” said Haynes.

Preserving the preserve and the decorations means tinsel hangers are being encouraged to move further down the road. It's one way to keep an Austin tradition evergreen.

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