By Bailey Buckingham
An organization shepherding the reforestation effort along the Blanco River following devastating floods in 2015 was given permission by Hays County Commissioners earlier this month to continue its work.
With one commissioner absent, Hays County Commissioners voted unanimously to continue the services of TreeFolks, an organization that seeks to empower Central Texas by planting and caring for trees. TreeFolks, which was hired on an initial contract in 2015, had its contract extended to 2017.
TreeFolks works with the county, private landowners and other stakeholders to accomplish its goals of reforestation. In early 2016, TreeFolks planted 1,700 trees at Five Mile Dam Park in San Marcos as part of its pilot project to reforest the Blanco River. The group plans to eventually reforest 60 miles of the Blanco River.
“We have been very pleased up-to-date with the services that have been provided by TreeFolks,” said Will Conley, Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner. “We hope to extend that relationship to continue the good, positive work that has been done. I believe the program has been well perceived within the community and has exceeded expectations of what we originally estimated.”
According to TreeFolks website, projects like the Blanco River Reforestation require a multi-year process because demand for reforestation in the area is high.
TreeFolks offers free trees and free consultation with staff concerning the specific needs of each person’s property and an individualized planting plan.
Properties along the Blanco River in Hays County are eligible for its services.
According to its website, TreeFolks mentions the funding for services comes directly from Hays County.
However, it mentions fundraising efforts are needed in order to pay for the large number of trees associated with this program.
Hays County Pct. 1 Commssioner Debbie Ingalsbe said funding for TreeFolks is something on her mind. She asked Conley what fundraising efforts have been made thus far, with Conley responding the county is planning a “big fundraiser event” in October.
“We’re really wanting to try to ask the private sector to subsidize this program and help us accomplish our goal of short and long term restoration to the Blanco River,” Conley said. “This continues all of that.”
In June, TreeFolks received a $94,000 grant from Impact Austin, a local women’s philanthropic organization.
TreeFolks was recognized in the environmental category and will use the awarded funds for the Blanco River Reforestation Project.
This grant, along with private donations and a recent $15,000 donation from H-E-B is helping the continuation of the TreeFolks restoration project, Conley said.
He said the group is actively seeking out applications for grants, contacting non-profit organizations and reaching out to the private sector for funding assistance.
“This is an investment in the future, if there ever was one,” said Judge Bert Cobb. “Planting trees, you may not get to eat the fruit or sit under the shade, but someone will.”