Volunteers help replant Waller Creek


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Hrobra

On Saturday, students gathered along Waller Creek to replant native trees and shrubs.

The volunteer day was part of the Waller Creek remodeling project, aimed at increasing healthy, native plant life along the creek, according to Jim Carse, assistant manager of urban forestry at UT Landscape Services. Landscape Service workers started removing the crowded and invasive vegetation along the bank last summer after safety concerns were raised.  

“We had a safety approach … (to make the area) less crowded and better lit,” Carse said. “We also wanted to go at it from an ecological and reparation perspective.”

Carse said removing the invasive species would not only help out the target area, but also regions downstream, since the trees would no longer spread their seeds into the creek. Carse also emphasized the important timing of the replanting project, as the team wanted to take advantage of the cool temperatures and sunlight.

UT administrators pushed to increase visibility along the creek after the death of Haruka Weiser last year, Jennifer Hrobar, supervisor of urban forestry, said. She added that her department will use the project to remove invasive species that had been outcompeting the native plants in the area.

“These areas looked like a bomb went off after we cleared it out,” Hrobar said. “Before, there was a monoculture of chinaberry and other invasive species, which take over and shade the whole area.”

To remove these plants, landscapers cut down the trees and shrubs and sprayed the stumps with an herbicide approved for use in aquatic areas. Hrobar said the chemicals were used to ensure that the invasive species would not return.

“It’s important to remove invasive species, as … they’ve been introduced from somewhere else, so they don’t have anything to keep them in check,” Hrobar said. “They grow so well that they outcompete native vegetation … so you lose your diversity, which is important for everything living there.”

Hrobar said that UT Landscape Services has been collecting seeds from around campus for a couple years now for a Green Fee project — some of those seeds, as well as mixes provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, were planted last Saturday by student volunteers and UT landscapers.

“The Wildflower Center worked with us to find species that worked well in sun and shade,” Hrobar said. “Some plants were better for drier sites, and some like a lot of moisture, so we planted them right next to the creek.”

According to Hrobar, the event served to not only begin on the remodeling project but also to maintain UT’s status as an Arbor Day Foundation “Tree Campus USA.”

Director of Sustainability, Jim Walker said in a live stream that the future of Waller Creek needs to be considered when developing the current framework of remodeling.

“How do you honor the ecological integrity of Waller Creek while you’re building on top of it?” Walker asked. “How do you make this an inviting space for mental respite and educational opportunity?”

Hrobar said the project will allow students to better enjoy visits to the creek.

“It’s an amazing place to have on a college campus,” Hrobar said. “It’s a spot for wildlife and quiet reflection … People that are in classes all day need a moment to go relax and recharge – it’s a great resource for them.”