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Ancient trees accidentally destroyed in Oak Hill

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TWC News: Ancient trees accidentally destroyed in Oak Hill
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A developer's project became the Oak Hill community's ire after they accidentally bull-dozed dozens of ancient trees while clearing the land for an apartment complex.

Oak Hill resident Alan Watts used to walk his dogs through a forest of dense trees at the abandoned lot along Old Bee Caves Road--until a few weeks ago when what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks.

"I was driving by and I saw this huge pile of Oak trees, and
where I used to walk was completely devastated," Watts said.

Watts said he was devastated too. Watts said he knew the Bee Caves Apartment complex would be built there but didn't expect them to clear all those old trees.

"Everybody around here says we don't want anymore clear-cutting of these magnificent Oak trees, these are our prized trees," Watts said. "It's why Oak Hill is called Oak Hill."

Watts and other Oak Hill neighbors soon learned the tree
removal was a mistake.

"These trees were not marked to be removed," City of Austin Arborist Michael Embesi said. "Matter fact these trees were outside the limits of construction Embesi says a tree killing like this is very rare."

Somewhere around 80 trees were wrongfully cut down without a permit, 20 of which may have been more than 200 years old.

"It's my understanding that the trees were removed by a subcontractor over the weekend," Embesi said.

The general contractor with Cadence-McShane Corp, Neil Harper, said "it was an unfortunate mistake but we're trying to do the right thing for the accident that happened."

The mistake will cost them. They won't be fined, but the city has required 100 percent mitigation, meaning they have to replace every inch of tree diameter that was cut down.

They were permitted to remove 400 inches of trees, which were specified in the approved site plan. But about 1,400 inches of trees were actually removed.

Harper thinks they'll have to purchase approximately 200 trees to meet the city's requirement.

"That's great. It will help restore the urban forest, but it
will not restore the antiquities that have been lost in these
ancient trees," Oak Hill resident Bruce Melton said.
"These oaks are a part of our community."

Neighbors in Oak Hill started task force to ensure accidents like this don't happen in the future.

If you're interested in helping out, send an email titled "Oak Hill Tree Disaster Committee" to bmelton@earthlink.net.

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