Mineral Wells Index
— By LIBBY CLUETT
POSSUM KINGDOM LAKE – The many, massive wildfires of 2011 ravaged communities surrounding scenic Possum Kingdom Lake, burning more than 126,000 acres and destroying 168 homes and countless trees and plants.
Recovery has been ongoing and continues this month, with an event planned to help restore the area’s landscape.
Texas A&M Forest Service, formerly the Texas Forest Service, is partnering with Texas Garden Clubs on Saturday, Dec. 15, to distribute 102 free trees to residents of The Cliffs and Sportsman’s World communities. The giveaway begins at 11 a.m. at The Cliffs, 160 Cliffs Drive, Graford, and at noon at Sportsman’s World, 6020 Hell’s Gate Loop, Strawn.
“These communities were devastated by the 2011 wildfires,” said Forester Courtney Blevins. “We want to give them some hope and help them re-green the area surrounding their homes.”
Strategic landscaping can help reduce the spread of wildfire, so it’s key for residents to consider proximity to the home and spacing between trees when planting on their property, Blevins added.
“We chose these species – live oak, lacey oak and cedar elm – to give away because they are drought hardy and not highly flammable,” Blevins said.
Purchased with funds donated by the Texas Garden Clubs, the 5-gallon trees will be distributed by officials with Texas A&M Forest Service. Blevins said foresters and volunteers from the Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council’s “Citizen Foresters” and reTREEt America will be on hand to offer planting advice and to help plant trees for any residents unable to do so themselves.
The trees will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents are not required to pre-register or provide proof of residence. For more information, contact Blevins at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 531-3119.
“This is an excellent time to plant trees in our part of the country,” he said. “The roots will start growing even though the trees are dormant and this will give them a great head start when the heat of summer kicks in.”
“These trees and all others will help control erosion of our valuable soil resource where there has been such a large loss of vegetation from the 2011 fires. They also help improve the soil by adding organic matter over time as leaves and twigs fall and decay,” he added. “This organic matter is critical to the health of the soil because there is a great deal of life down there. These organisms in the soil are important for proper nutrient cycling for all plants.”
In its publication “Firewise Landscaping in Texas,” the Texas A&M Forest Service offers the following suggestions on planting near a home to make a yard or landscape Firewise:
• Zero-10 feet from a home – This area should have plants that are low to the ground, green and healthy. Use moist plants around the foundation. Keep them properly watered and avoid large clumps of plants that can generate high heat. Use material such as rock or stone instead of mulch around the home to create a buffer between the grass and foundation. Small shrubs with low density can provide beauty and other benefits. Maintenance includes keeping shrubs small, proper pruning and cleaning under all plants and maintaining a green and mowed lawn.
• 10-30 feet from home – This area will most likely have trees, shrubs and grass. The grass should be watered regularly and cut short. Ladder fuels that allow fire to climb from lower to higher vegetation should be removed in this area. The best choices for trees are deciduous species with wide, broad leaves. Shrubbery and bushes should be placed away from trees and planted in islands or groupings. Use brick or stone along the edge of an island to slow the flame spread. Single plants or groups within islands provide a separation of fuels and are decorative. Small to medium deciduous trees are preferable to evergreens in this zone.