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The Hidden/Green City

Jun 9, 2008
Canopy. That's a great word and a comforting thought when shade is what you need on a hot day. When it's canopy provided by trees, the word and the comfort loom refreshingly larger in the mind of any summer sun-smitten shade seeker. No man made shade offers quite the appeal of the dark and dappled shade of a live oak tree on a sun-baked lawn.

Austin has a rich urban canopy and, although trees can cause problems with utility lines above ground and roots that break sewer and water lines below, their benefit to the community is undisputable. There are more than 100 species of Hill Country trees and they provide a satisfying and soothing aesthetic component to the urban landscape-basically by hiding it! They also provide significant savings to the city and its residents by reducing air pollution and storm water runoff and by saving electricity by shading homes and businesses which consequently use less power for cooling.

Austin's urban forest and hilly terrain work together to provide city dwellers with a feeling that they are never far from the country. Many home and business owners in the city incorporate these environmental features into the design of their dwellings and buildings to preserve and accentuate the illusion of an out-of-city experience. Of course, the increased seclusion, privacy and noise reduction afforded by such natural barriers are far from illusory, and provide welcome relief from the expanses of concrete and asphalt that assail the senses in most other cities in Texas and, indeed, in some parts of Austin itself.

The thick woods, green hills and spring-fed streams that grace the area have attracted people to the area since way before the arrival of Europeans and their descendants. For hundreds of years, nomadic indigenous tribes such as the Tonkawa, Comanche and Kiowa Apaches visited the area, attracted by plentiful water, abundant game and reliable campsites along the creeks and streams. It's easy to imagine that these people also appreciated the shade of the thickly forested hills.

The first European/American settlers founded a series of small towns along the banks of the Colorado River here. One was called Waterloo. Mirabeau B. Lamar, one of the presidents of the Republic of Texas discovered the area during a buffalo hunt and was so impressed by its beauty and its resources that he decided it should become the capital of the new republic. Despite stiff opposition from many people, including Sam Houston, Lamar prevailed and renamed Waterloo Austin, after Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas.

That beauty and those resources have attracted people to Austin ever since and have inspired its residents to preserve it so that it can continue to be enjoyed. The city has more than 16,000 acres of parkland in more than 200 parks, 12 preserves and 26 greenbelts. The Town Lake Corridor offers hiking and biking trails that draw thousands of residents daily to enjoy the natural beauty that the setting along the river bank affords.

Zilker park is another hugely popular green area that attracts tens of thousands of visitors, especially those who come in the summer to escape the heat in the ice cold waters of the Barton Springs pool.

The trees preserved in this extensive park system and in the older neighborhoods of Austin are important to the quality of life that this city has been recognized and honored for. As the city and private groups and foundations continue to support the preservation of old trees and the planting of new ones, its urban canopy will continue to grow and provide shade for generations to come.
About the Author
Escapeso Realty operates in the Austin real estate market. Their site provides information about current mortgage interest rates along with a free search of the Austin MLS.
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