Mike Ruzek speaks during a ceremony Tuesday morning celebrating 25 years of tree planting with Spruce Up Austin at East Side Lake. Beside him is Gretchen Ramlo, Spruce Up Austin president. Ramlo is holding a rendition of a tree walk project Spruce Up Austin will complete this summer. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Mike Ruzek speaks during a ceremony Tuesday morning celebrating 25 years of tree planting with Spruce Up Austin at East Side Lake. Beside him is Gretchen Ramlo, Spruce Up Austin president. Ramlo is holding a rendition of a tree walk project Spruce Up Austin will complete this summer. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A growing dream; Spruce Up Austin celebrates 25 years by unveiling a new plan along East Side Lake

Published 10:42am Wednesday, May 7, 2014

With one small tree, an Austin volunteer group has left a landmark.

Spruce Up Austin officially planted the first tree in an eventual tree walk along East Side Lake Tuesday, with up to 45 species of trees planned, signs with QR codes to give tree information, and a kiosk explaining Spruce Up Austin’s role in the area. The tree walk will commemmorate the group’s 25th anniversary.

0507.SpruceUpAustin4“It’s just a heck of a lot of fun,” said Spruce Up Austin President Gretchen Ramlo.

Spruce Up Austin is one of Austin’s oldest community groups. With about 18 current members on its committee and dozens of volunteers each year, the group is dedicated to planting trees and beautifying Austin. Spruce Up Austin has planted more than 2,600 trees over the past 25 years, which has improved community parks by almost $500,000 in estimated value.

The group was formed in 1990 by Mike Ruzek, who wanted to plant more trees in Austin after Dutch Elm Disease felled many trees in the area.

Since then, the group has worked every year to plant dozens of trees throughout town, from the 100 trees for Hormel Foods Corp.’s 100th anniversary in 1991 to 150 trees for the city’s 150th anniversary in 2006.

“We appreciate it,” said Mayor Tom Stiehm. “The city appreciates it.”

Stiehm was at the tree planting Monday to read a proclamation declaring May 5-11 Spruce Up Austin week and to give a tree on behalf of the city, a 6-year-old Avatar Colorado Blue Spruce.

Spruce Up Austin president Gretchen Ramlo talks about Spruce Up Austin’s history Tuesday during a 25th anniversary celebratory tree planting at East Side Lake.
Spruce Up Austin president Gretchen Ramlo talks about Spruce Up Austin’s history Tuesday during a 25th anniversary celebratory tree planting at East Side Lake.

Spruce Up Austin plans to work on the tree walk throughout the summer, as volunteers are working with University of Minnesota professor Gary Johnson to identify tree varieties for the walk. According to Ruzek, about 46 varieties of trees have been identified thus far.

Ruzek, Ramlo and other Spruce Up Austin members describe the tree walk as a gift to the city that can help residents learn more about the importance of trees, as well the the importance for more varieties of trees.

“We’re hoping that this gift is going to be an educational tool to not only promote the importance of trees, but also promote diversity,” Ruzek said.

Ruzek said the tree walk could be completed as soon as September.


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