When the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum is dedicated at a public tree planting ceremony on April 30, it will be a celebration not just of trees but of Texans who have donated their labor, their specialized skills, services and equipment to make this special place a reality.
Without the $1.4 million financial contribution of the San Antonio Area Foundation at the request of conservationist Mollie Steves Zachry, the arboretum would still be a drawing in the Wildflower Center's master plan. Earlier, the Foundation had contributed $20,000 toward arboretum design at Mrs. Zachry's request. But any number of tree-loving people have stepped up to make it a community project.
And while the arboretum is still a work in progress scheduled for opening in Spring 2012, the dedication will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 30. The ceremony will recognize the offspring of Austin's famous Treaty Oak, the first tree in the arboretum's Hall of Texas Heroes which will feature descendants of other notable Texas trees, including the Alamo Live Oak, the Sam Houston Kissing Bur Oak and the Goose Island Big Tree. Guest Speaker will be Tom Boggus, state forester and director of the Texas Forest Service.
At 1 p.m. W. Gary Smith, the arboretum designer and author of "From Art to Landscape", will speak in the auditorium, followed by a book signing generously underwritten by Beth and Wayne Gibbens. Meanwhile, visitors can view "Living Witness", a photo exhibit of famous Texas trees by Ralph Yznaga.
Meanwhile, work goes on to create the central meadow, the picnic area, the Hall of Texas heroes, and the trail connecting the arboretum to the Wildflower Center. Several Austin arborists have joined the Adopt-a-Tree program to ensure that the majestic oaks already on the site are ready for show time. Among arborists who have treated trees, removed unhealthy wood and shaped the trees are They Might be Monkeys, the Davey Tree Expert Company, Sunrise Tree Services and the University of Texas at Austin Landscape Services. We Love Trees created a trench to protect the arboretum from oak wilt.
Much of the early work at the arboretum was hard labor, removing brush and undergrowth that obscured specimen trees. NRG Energy and Whole Foods employees contributed volunteer work days to brush-clearing, and Wildflower Center volunteers spent countless hours at the task. University landscape services also contributed time to brush clearing.
Eagle Scout John Michael Reyes raised $4,000 and contributed 400 hours to create a picnic area, purchasing and preparing and installing picnic benches.
Creating a 16-acre arboretum requires special equipment. Thanks go to Melissa Jones for contributing a Kawasaki Mule, to the Susan Vaughan Foundation for tree shears and to the Betsy Rogers and C.L. Browning Ranch for contributing a Bobcat and help in brush clearing.
The arboretum will be an educational center and one demonstration area will focus on trees suited to planting near power lines. Pedernales Electric Cooperative made an in-kind donation of power for this feature while Austin Energy donated the trees. And because an arboretum is nothing without trees, we are grateful for the Texas Forest Service's donation of the grafted clone of the Treaty Oak, Sul Ross State University's contribution of West Texas oaks and the Texas Chapter of the International Society for Arboriculture's contribution toward the purchase of trees.