AZLE — For two years in a row, the City of Azle has celebrated Texas Arbor Day by giving away hundreds of free trees to its citizens. This year, all 160 of the city’s trees were reserved eight days before the Nov. 4 deadline. Live oaks, bur oaks, red oaks, cedar elms, tonto crepe myrtles, Natchez crepe myrtles and Chinese pistache from Texas Tree Farms were given out by city employees for this event.
“The inspiration really evolved from working to get that tree preservation ordinance in place and becoming a Tree City USA,” councilmember Stacy Peek said. “That was really one of the initiatives I had when I first started the tree preservation ordinance because essentially, I think it marks your town as really as caring about your environment and the community. To me it’s a label that says we care, and we want to preserve what’s remaining. We’re doing everything we can within the laws that allow us to do it. This to me is in a way trying to reestablish what we lost, because we lost a lot.”
Azle’s City Council adopted a tree preservation and public tree care ordinance and established a tree board in late 2021 after hearing public backlash to the clear-cutting of trees by property developers. The ordinance prohibited clear-cutting and required developers to submit a tree survey and tree mitigation plan with their construction plans. On March 13, 2022, the City of Azle announced its recognition as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation for the year. As part of gaining tree city recognition, the city also gave away 150 trees for Texas Arbor Day 2022.
Director of Planning and Development David Hawkins is glad to have received relatively mature, larger trees in three gallon buckets this year and was happy to see some familiar faces in the tree pickup line.
“People can actually see the trees and the leaves and visualize it better,” Hawkins said. “I was very happy to hear there were some people who were repeaters in this program, their trees from last year did survive even though we had that tremendous drought. They were in high demand this year. Last year we were still pushing it out on the last day, and we still had some leftover. Who knows, maybe next year we’ll push for more trees than we did for this year.”
Hawkins and other city officials hope events like this will help secure Azle’s Tree City USA recognition for 2023. The public response to the program was positive, with cars already lined up at city hall by the time employees got there.
“It’s a nice tree. I do construction so I’ve already planted a few other trees, but you can never have too many if it’s permitting,” Andrew Solorio said of his new bur oak. “I think the issue is that with so many new constructions in the area they’re knocking down so many of the old trees, the old growth trees, so it’s nice that they’re offering some free trees for us to replant and hopefully make green again.”
Other residents said the tree giveaway provided the perfect opportunity for them to improve the beauty of their property on a budget.
“It looked pretty from all the pictures I looked up,” Dylan Schneider said of his new Natchez crepe myrtle. “It sprouts a bunch of pretty flowers so hopefully that’ll go down in the front yard for everybody to look at. It’s perfect, a lot of people, including myself, can’t really afford the trees, it’s not at the top of my budget list, but we do want to make our yard and our house look beautiful. This allows us to do that pretty much cost free.”
The city encourages residents who picked up a tree to share their planting pictures with them for future advertising by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.