Roughly three years after the Bastrop County Complex Fire scorched much of the central Texas landscape, destroying more than 1,700 homes and searing approximately 34,000 acres of county land, the community is still coming together to pick up the broken pieces.
Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape and Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher stood side by side on a vacant concrete slab that once secured a home in Tahitian Village Thursday morning, as construction workers used chainsaws and heavy machinery to remove the lingering dead trees destroyed by the fire.
In early 2014, Bastrop County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed on a plan to help remove the dead trees that eventually brought in Go Green International, a Bastrop-based minority-owned company that is partnering with the county to remove potentially hazardous timber from county properties at no cost to the owners.
In exchange for offering the free service to citizens, Bastrop County is granting Go Green an 85 percent tax abatement through 2023.
According to Go Green co-founder Dennis Parker, the cleanup project is expected to take about three to five years, but that includes the removal of millions of drought-stricken trees in addition to trees destroyed by the fire.
“Savings to property owners who receive this free service will amount to millions of dollars, if, in the alternative, they had to pay commercial rates to have dead, dying and unwanted trees removed,” said Parker.
While the service will remain available to property owners at no cost, it’s important to register as quickly as possible, county officials said.
“We’re trying to let people know that if they see crews out working in their neighborhood to call soon and put in a request,” said Gayle Wilhelm, executive assistant to Judge Pape, adding that once work crews leave a particular area that they would be moving on to other parts of the county.
The easiest way to register is by simply visiting Go Green’s website — www.gogreeninternationalinc.com — but residents can also stop by their office at 211 Jackson St. or contact a county representative to set up an appointment by calling 512-581-4013.
Making the deal even sweeter, according to Parker, is the next step in the process. All harvested trees removed from county properties are being processed into a clean biomass fuel product, he said, turning the old and rotted wood into something of economic value.
The work will essentially be divided between two types of crews, added Parker. The mechanical or large acre crew, which began working in May 2014, will take on the larger tracts of land consisting of about 10 or more acres.
The hand-cut crew, which started in June, will handle the smaller tracts of land where chainsaws will be necessary for tree removal instead of heavy machinery.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.