He asked for much, and mulch was given
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