He asked for much, and mulch was given

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - Her­man

Re­mem­ber last year when Austin Mayor Steve Adler en­cour­aged you to stuff the bal­lot box? And re­mem­ber when some of you did? And re­mem­ber when we won?

We weren’t ex­actly sure what we had won, but we won. We found out this week what we won: Our prize pack­age in­cludes mulch. Lots of dark, mulch-smelling mulch. And much more than mulch.

Let me ex­plain. JetBlue is an air­line. It runs an an­nual Green City Vote con­test invit­ing folks in cities it serves to vote for their city. The win­ning city gets $50,000 for a green space project of the city’s choice. Austin, en­cour­aged by Adler’s call for us to vote ev­ery day, won last year with more than 225,000 votes. Salt Lake City was a dis­tant sec­ond with about 95,000 votes.

Af­ter the vote, JetBlue and city of­fi­cials worked on how to spend the money. Turns out we stuffed the bal­lot box for $50,000 of a $180,000 project (the bal­ance is paid by the city) to sig­nif­i­cantly up­grade one of our city’s most beau­ti­ful spots — Zilker Botan­i­cal Gar­den.

I got a quick tour of the project Wed­nes­day as JetBlue vol­un­teers were do­ing their part. The project is about con­ser­va­tion and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion. Be­cause of cracks in the old con­crete bot­tom in a streambed at the gar­den, more than a mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter were lost each year, seep­ing into the ground, ac­cord­ing to Cullen Fin­negan of the Austin Parks and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment.

The 180-foot stream that flows from the Isamu Taniguchi Ja­panese Gar­den to a pond at the Rose Gar­den gazebo now has a new bot­tom that will pre­vent leak­age.

“It’s go­ing to be not just a streambed but more of an ecosys­tem for aquatic life and plants,” Fin­negan said of the up­grade.

The re­designed area also will have ed­u­ca­tional ex­hibits and will be ac­ces­si­ble to those with dis­abil­i­ties. And there’s mulch.

The am­bi­tious project fea­tures five ponds, con­nected by large bridge stones, at dif­fer­ent el­e­va­tions. The wa­ter flows through the ponds. More than 100 species of na­tive plants will be on the banks and ad­ja­cent ar­eas.

The work has been go­ing on for sev­eral months. On Wed­nes­day, JetBlue vol­un­teers were on hand to help with their hands. In the morn­ing, that meant clear­ing English ivy. When that was done, there were plants to plant and other work to do as more ex­pert hands con­tin­ued work­ing on

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