Following February’s historic winter storm, the Austin Public Works Forestry Team is inspecting vegetation in the public right of way. To ensure the safety of all residents, Forestry will begin proactively removing dead trees in high traffic areas beginning in late April. Residents should report dead or damaged trees in the right of way to Austin 3-1-1.
The “right of way” includes streets, sidewalks, alleys, and other land designated for public use. Many plants in the right of way were severely impacted from the freeze, such as Arizona ash, Chinese tallow, and non-native palms and pine tree species. Professional arborists will evaluate each tree and remove those that pose an immediate threat to public safety. If a tree must be removed, nearby businesses and residents will be notified with a door hanger that provides information on what will be removed, when, and a contact number.
One major focus for the Forestry team is the removal of dead palm trees in the public right of way. Lisa Killander, Public Works Forestry Program Manager, explains that “the longer palms are left standing, the more difficult they become to remove. Rotting palms are heavy and can snap and fall without warning, creating hazardous conditions for pedestrians, drivers, and property.” It is estimated that up to 90% of palm trees in Austin are dead.
Residents are responsible for tending to plants that extend from their property into the right of way and for plants they have placed in the right of way. Vegetation that creates a barrier to mobility needs to be pruned, and dead vegetation should be removed to decrease the amount of fuel for wildfires.
While vegetation that residents have planted in the right of way is their responsibility, Forestry will assess the safety risk of palms and other trees in the right of way. If dead plants pose a risk, public safety will be prioritized over property owner responsibility. Property owners who have palms or damaged trees on their property are advised to call a certified arborist and schedule an appointment soon.
The City and Austin residents work together to keep the right of way clear so that everyone can safely access public spaces. Learn more about the importance of right of way maintenance at: AustinTexas.gov/ClearTheROW.