Auction Oaks @ Republic Square Restoration Project About to Start…

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We want to let you know about an Austin Parks Foundation project that we are about to kick off at Republic Square Park at 5th, Guadalupe, 4th and San Antonio Sts. downtown that involves some restoration and rehabilitation for some old and threatened trees – the Auction Oaks at Republic Square.

We’ve been working with the Republic Square Partners group – a collection of residents, business owners, building and property owners as well as the City, the Federal Government (including the Federal Court and the General Services Administration), the Downtown Austin Alliance and the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association for the past few years to create a plan to both preserve and improve Republic Square, which is used for a host of events and increasingly by residents downtown.

For the current project, we began with a Project for Public Spaces workshop in December 2006 with over 75 participants weighing on short and long term goals and ideas. Refining the results through our monthly meetings with Daniel Woodroffe of TBG Partners, we came up with a master vision plan and then focused on the area under the greatest threat – the SW corner of the park at 4th and San Antonio that has the three Auction Oak trees.

The Auction Oaks is the site of the auction to divide the city up into lots for sale back in 1839. Since then, the park (owned by the state and leased to city) has been the center of hispanic culture and a thriving neighborhood, then sadly, a parking lot for 27 years, transformed back into a park in the late 1970s by the Lions Club and other citizen activists and further transformed in 1986 with the mounds (called berms) and formal paths that you see today.

But these berms have had a negative effect on the health of the three Auction Oaks, especially the center oak which also has a small stone wall surrounding it where its root zone isn’t covered by a big berm. This project seeks to address the health of the Auction Oaks which are showing signs of major stress based on analysis including the x-raying of the trees.

Our project will be broken into two parts. The first part will begin late next week and last for 3-4 weeks.

First, Parks Department Forestry crews will come and prune the deadwood off of the Auction Oaks, Then, we’ll set up a construction fence immediately surrounding the area. Bartlett Tree Experts will then use a tool called an air spade to do root zone mapping. We want to remove the berms in the area that are covering the tree roots, but need to know how many roots have penetrated the berms and take action accordingly. Environmental Design will transplant four street trees – 3 on San Antonio and 1 on W 4th St, that are growing into the crowns of the Auction Oaks. These trees will be transplanted into the east side of the park.

Additional tasks will be peeling back portions of the sidewalk that runs between the Auction Oaks as well the berms to complete our root zone mapping project. Finally, we’ll feed, treat, re-irrigate and heavily mulch the auction oaks area and the transplanted tree area. Construction fencing will remain in place for a few months to let the area begin to recover.

If all goes well, we’ll be getting our final approvals for the second phase of the project later this summer which will create a seat wall around the entire area of the Auction Oaks. (We have an approved site plan correction and a separate permit for the initial tree work already.) We’ll install native plantings as well as a specially engineered deck / stage under the central Auction Oak, that won’t impact the tree like the berms and low stone wall have. The goal of the deck is to allow people to use the deck as a way to enjoy the shade under the tree but keep folks off of the majority of the auction oaks area to minimize soil compaction.

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Overhead view of the revamped Auction Oaks Area

Overhead view of the revamped Auction Oaks Area

The first part of the project is funded with donations from the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival, the General Services Adminstration, and the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association. Special thanks goes to the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Austin Parks and Recreation Dept and TBG Partners.

More information, including a more complete scope of work as well as visuals showing the overall plan is available at: www.austinparks.org/Downtown/republictomorrow.html We’ll also post updates through out the project on this blog.

Thanks for reading and please email or call with any questions. We’ll be happy to field them.

Charlie McCabe – Austin Parks Foundation

512.477.1566 or cmccabe at austinparks dot org

Here's a view of the fence location and the tree transplanting information.

Here’s a view of the fence location and the tree transplanting information.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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