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City program offers free trees to Austin homeowners

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TWC News: City program offers free trees to Austin homeowners
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Despite the ongoing drought in Central Texas, arborists are trying to keep up the region's tree canopy.

And as development continues to bring more homes and jobs to Austin, it also brings growing pains, including the loss of green space to new buildings and paved parking lots.

To combat that loss, Austin Energy has partnered with local non-profit Tree Folks to plant 10,000 trees throughout Austin neighborhoods each year.

"What we want to do is reduce the urban heat island effect by planting trees along the street,” Greg Mast with Tree Folks said. “When they are mature, they will shade the pavement, and it won't get quite so hot."

In order for the trees to be effective, they have to be planted within 15 feet of the curb.

"It's OK to plant these trees near a power line. That's why we offer the smaller stature trees," Mast said.

Michael Embesi is the city's on-staff arborist. His job is to keep Austin's tree canopy healthy.

"The natural environment plays a very important part into monitoring our urban forest," Embesi said.

Despite a persistent drought that began in 2010, nearly one-third of Austin is still covered by trees, but it will take the help of willing homeowners and nonprofits to keep it that way.

Prime tree planting season is October through March.

Tree Folks encourages anyone with a blue or yellow flag in their yard to claim and plant the tree before the weather heats up. You can do so by visiting TreeFolks.org.

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