Keep Austin Beautiful is thrilled to recognize the Keep Walnut Creek Wild volunteer group with the 2017 Balcones Beautification Award. As an Adopt-a-Creek partner since May 2014, Keep Walnut Creek Wild cares for Tar Branch and surrounding uplands in Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. Their work goes far beyond picking up litter, as the group has committed extraordinary efforts to removing invasive species and restoring native tree diversity in the areas surrounding their adopted creek segment. Moreover, Keep Walnut Creek Wild shares their passion for environmental stewardship by leading numerous other volunteer groups in restoration efforts on behalf of Keep Austin Beautiful.
Cliff leads a demonstration on how to properly use a weed wrench.
Cliff Tyllick, the organizer of Keep Walnut Creek Wild, describes his group’s comprehensive work along the creek. “There might be litter along Tar Branch,” he notes, “but we won’t be able to tell until the invasive plants are out of the way.” With resources from Keep Austin Beautiful and the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department, Cliff and other volunteers have targeted Ligustrum lucidum, or glossy privet trees, for removal. This invasive species chokes out native trees and reduces biodiversity in creek habitats. Cliff and his group girdle larger privet trees, removing a ring of bark from their trunks, and uproot saplings before they become established. “Steadily we are removing glossy privet from the woods along Tar Branch,” Cliff explains. “As the privets disappear, native saplings are getting water, finding daylight, and starting to take back the canopy. Where there are no native saplings, all those seeds we’ve scattered—seeds provided by Keep Austin Beautiful—are sprouting, filling the void with wildflowers and native grasses.”
Keep Walnut Creek Wild has planted more than 1300 native trees in their adopted area.
In 2017 alone, Keep Walnut Creek Wild held seven workdays and coordinated 144 volunteers, removing more than 600 privets and other invasive plants while placing some 1,300 native saplings. In addition, the group collected more than 40 pounds of litter. Cliff is happy to report that trash doesn’t seem to collect too quickly along Tar Branch these days. “Maybe by keeping the park consistently cleaner we’re encouraging everyone to do their part,” he says.
Despite Keep Walnut Creek Wild’s impressive accomplishments over the past three years, the group continues to look to the future. “The work isn’t done,” Cliff maintains. “We still have to attack giant reed, Johnson grass, nandina, and other invasives that are taking a foothold of their own. As we do, we know that Keep Austin Beautiful will be supporting us, bringing in volunteers and keeping us well supplied.”
Keep Walnut Creek Wild is an inspiration for all of us working to restore native habitats and care for the Central Texas watershed, and we’re excited to continue partnering with them in the coming years.
Join us in honoring Keep Walnut Creek Wild alongside Keep Austin Beautiful’s other 2017 awardees at the Beautify Bash, taking place at Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum on Thursday, November 16, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more info and tickets, please visit keepaustinbeautiful.org/beautifybash.