RETREET BLOG

RETREET is a kaleidoscopic group of bicycle and tree enthusiasts with strong backs, sharp minds, and big hearts who volunteer to replant communities whose trees have been lost to natural disaster.


 
WIMBERLEY RETREET
January 16th-18th, 2016

On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, more than 12 inches of rain fell along the watershed of the Blanco River in just a few short hours. In Wimberley, TX, the river rose from roughly 5 feet to a crest just over 41 feet, far above the 13 feet flood stage and well past the all-time peak level of 32 feet set in 1929. Tremendous flash flooding ensued as a result.

Entire blocks of homes in Wimberley were swept away by a "tidal wave of water" (The Wall Street Journal). Officials reported 320 homes destroyed in the town and 12 people lost their lives. Many of the centuries-old trees that lined the riverbank and formed a major part of Wimberley's identity were reduced to piles of rubble.

The week after the devastating flood, a man named Ryan reached out to RETREET asking for help. Ryan said he had called agencies, organizations, and businesses all over the country to ask for assistance and was told time and time again to contact RETREET. He was overjoyed to have our office on the phone and was hopeful that we would be able to bring trees back to Wimberley. We immediately made a commitment to do just that. 

Heavy damage along the Blanco River.

Heavy damage along the Blanco River.

With the project announced, partners quickly began to come on board. First to step up were Arbor Day Foundation and Texas A&M Forest Service, who offered to provide $8,000 for the purchase of 15-gallon trees and to determine which tree species those should be, respectively. Then, meetings were arranged with Hays County Chapter Texas Master Naturalists and City of Wimberley, groups that would become invaluable local partners. As planting day approached, additional collaborators joined the cadre, including The Home Depot Foundation, who granted $7,500 in tools and materials, Richardson Bike Mart, who donated bicycle rentals for traveling RETREETers, Myers Concrete Construction, who provided trucks, trailers, and manpower to deliver trees and supplies to each home, and The Nature Conservancy, who gathered the residences that formed our planting list.

 

Our planting party began to arrive in Wimberley on Saturday morning, the 16th. Most took a bicycle ride that afternoon, led by a local cyclist, that started in Blue Hole Regional Park. After the ride, everyone enjoyed a free round courtesy of Twisted X Brewing Company. The group then sat for a fabulous meal at The Leaning Pear and, after dessert, wandered over to The Buzzard Bar for some evening entertainment. It was a fun introduction to town.

Sunday, January 17th, 33 RETREETers who had traveled to Wimberley from 7 states and Washington, D.C., were joined by 45 additional volunteers from all over central Texas, including students from Katherine Ann Porter Charter High School. All told, the group planted 206 trees at 37 homes and 2 community parks during 8 hours of hard work.

Following the planting, RETREET held a free community meal for all volunteers, residents, and partners—an epic Persian feast prepared by chef Daniel Avazpour.

Ready to replant homesites along the Blanco River.

Ready to replant homesites along the Blanco River.

A number of press outlets covered the event, including FOX, NBC, and The Weather Channel, which did a live, nationwide interview with our Executive Director onsite at the first planting location, a community park on River Road. It was an amazing opportunity to tell the story of the floods in Wimberley and RETREET's efforts to begin replanting the riverbank.

Live Nationwide Interview with The Weather Channel (video link)

Live Nationwide Interview with The Weather Channel (video link)

Greatest of all, though, was the feedback we received from the residents of Wimberley. We got phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and even a hand-written letter praising the volunteers not only for their work, but also for their professionalism and cheery demeanor. We are proud to call so many amazing individuals RETREETers, and to know that their presence in Wimberley will be felt for generations to come. What an amazing community!

Thomas Thompson Letter JAN 2016.jpg