By Andy Sevilla
Though some trees along RM 967 set up roots in Buda hundreds of years ago, more than two dozen will soon have to give way for a widening project aimed at accommodating growth.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and Hays County partnered in the widening proposal in effort to improve mobility and enhance safety along 2.6-miles of RM 967 between Cole Springs Road and FM 1626, a state agency spokesperson, Kelly Reyna, told the Hays Free Press.
Trees along RM 967 marked with only red flags are slated for removal, Reyna said. According to TxDOT’s latest tree removal list, 28 trees are on the chopping block.
Heart-shaped signs hung on trees that are slated for removal express area residents’ mourning for what the future holds for some woodland.
“Thank you for your beauty,” one sign states. “May your spirit live on.”
Another sign reads, “Thank you for everything you gave us. We are sorry you can’t be saved.”
But saving trees is what city officials lobbied TxDOT to do.
Buda City Engineer Stanley Fees told the Hays Free Press council members unanimously approved instructions for staff to direct TxDOT on what the city’s wants were regarding tree removal along the roadway.
In subsequent negotiations between city staff and TxDOT, 86 trees pinned for removal were saved by modifying the roadway’s alignment, Fees said.
“TxDOT’s local area office worked with the city and county to review the design and balance the existing environment,” Reyna said. “TxDOT will make adjustments to the typical sidewalk locations, use alternate drainage methods, and adjust the horizontal (shift left/right) alignment of the roadway in effort to preserve some trees.”
Suzy Robbins, a Garlic Creek resident, said she was unsure of who put the heart-shaped signs on some trees, but surmised it was likely neighborhood residents.
Robbins said the large trees, like the ones slated for removal, were part of what attracted her family to Buda.
“It helped make it feel like a small town still,” she said. “We all realize that it’s change, but it’s hard for us to lose living things that have been here for hundreds of years.”
Though she’s appreciative more trees were saved than originally suggested, Robbins said smart planning and being proactive, instead of reactive, could help city officials accommodate growth, all the while maintaining the city’s small town charm.
RM 967, however, is a state roadway. Though plans indicate the roadway will at some point be turned over to the city, presently there is no formal agreement for its transfer, Reyna said.
“TxDOT is sensitive to the value of the natural environment and the safety of the public,” Reyna said. “We take this very seriously and will continue to work to enhance safety and mobility in the project area.”
The widening project will add a center-turn lane and paved shoulders along the identified 2.6-mile stretch of RM 967. The project also will include a sidewalk along one side of the roadway from Onion Creek to FM 1626.
The city requested TxDOT construct the sidewalk on the south side of RM 967 from FM 1626 to the Garlic Creek subdivision to allow residents with small children to use it without having to cross the road, Fees said.
TxDOT funded the design of the roadway improvements, and Hays County is funding the construction.