Urban forester protects and preserves native trees


Adjusting her grip on the long-handled shears, Heather Brewer lopped off one more branch of the waxy-leafed, blue-berried ligustrum bush. As soon as the upper tips and lateral branches of the evergreen shrub were removed, the small group of volunteers could begin the intensive work of removing the trunk itself. Stretching for a moment, Heather looked out over the Rivery Park wet pond and imagined the Georgetown hike and bike trail as it would be when finally clear of these invasive plants.

“Ligustrum, nandina, Chinaberry, and other invasive plants can grow up and choke out native foliage,” explained Heather, who has served as the urban forester for the City of Georgetown for more than six years. “Ligustrum in particular spreads very quickly and can get so thick that nothing grows beneath it. Native grasses and other plants use less water and are better adapted to Central Texas, but they also grow slower. We are trying to help them as much as we can.”

Teams of dedicated volunteers, dubbed Trail Tamers, have already made significant inroads in reducing invasive ligustrum along the San Gabriel River. The hostile plants, which can reach heights of twenty-five feet, had overgrown much of Chandler Park and even begun to crowd out the neighboring forty-foot-tall cedar elms. Heather and her team of Trail Tamers cleared out the shrubs and opened up a stunning view of the river along Spring Valley Road.

“Our trail system is nine miles long and a unique feature of the city,” said Heather, whose focus as Georgetown’s urban forester is protecting the city’s trees and increasing their numbers. “We want to do all that we can to protect the trail and the trees and parks around it. The trail system connects everything, but only a small portion of it goes through urban areas, so you can stop almost anywhere and enjoy looking at nature.”

In addition to reducing invasive species, Heather also works hard to support native ones. She coordinates tree plantings every March in San Gabriel Park, as an early celebration of Arbor Day, and she hosts free tree care classes through the Georgetown Parks and Recreation department. She also administers the city’s tree ordinance for both commercial and residential properties through the planning and development review process. Heather has been honored for her work by the Texas Forest Service and the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.

The Georgetown Trail Tamers meet weekly on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. and always welcome volunteers. For more information, contact Heather Brewer at heather.brewer@georgetown.org or at (512) 930-6113.

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