Commissioners consider spending $245K to transplant 100-year-old

Commissioners consider spending $245K to transplant 100-year-old tree

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A 100-year-old Oak tree in south Travis County has to be removed to make way for road improvements.

County commissioners originally decided to cut it down, but after protests from residents, they're now considering spending as much as $245,000 to have it transplanted.

Residents in this area are urging commissioners to save the tree, but it could come at a huge cost to taxpayers.

Along Frate Barker Road is this giant live Oak. Its long limbs hang over the roadway and her name is Cami.

Nearby residents gave this tree a name and she even has a Facebook page. Cami is about 30 inches in diameter and believed to be at least 100 years old.

"It connects our communities, we're several communities around her," nearby resident, Tracy Huguley said.

And that's why these residents are fighting to save her.

"This tree is bringing everyone together and representing something bigger than themselves," resident Cassie Stickrod said.

The tree is in the middle of the proposed expansion of Frate Barker. It's a project that will cost more than $10 million. Eighty percent of that will come from federal funds, 20 percent from the county.

Travis County Commissioners originally decided to cut the tree down.

"I was just screaming, oh my God, what about the tree?" Huguley said.

When they heard the news, residents rallied around Cami, calling for Commissioners to transplant her instead.

The contractor for the road project has given the county a bid of $245,000. Commissioners hope TxDOT will agree to reimburse the county 80 percent of the transplanting cost, but if not, it would all come from the county.

While most Commissioners seem to be supportive of saving the tree, they acknowledge that's a lot of money to spend and some said they don't want this to turn into a road vs. a tree fight.

"The problems we have in this community in regards to mobility and transportation is severe," Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty said.

According to an arborist, the tree has a 95 percent chance of survival if properly transplanted and taken care of afterward, something residents have promised to do.

"One of the property owners has donated a space for that tree to be transplanted to. The homeowners association has committed to provide $108,000 over 5 years to provide aftercare for the tree," Michael Fossum of the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation said.

Knowing all that, Commissioners will have to decide if it's worth it to save Cami.

Commissioners did receive several lower bids that they will consider, but ideally they want to go with the contractor they've already hired.

They hope to hear from TxDOT about whether they would be reimbursed for the transplant cost before they vote on this next week. If they do get reimbursed, transplanting would cost the taxpayers about $50,000.

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