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16 September . 2019

How Sweetwater preserves our Hill Country trees

Drive through Sweetwater, and you can see large trees standing majestically in front of many homes, both completed and still under construction.

Look a little closer, and you might notice that quite a few homes and streets in Sweetwater don’t follow the typical uniform layout you find in many communities. Instead, streets wind and curve gently around trees, and homes seem to be designed and placed on their homesites so they can co-exist harmoniously with big, beautiful trees.

This is no accident. Sweetwater has one of the strongest tree preservation programs of any community in Austin, with developer Newland working closely with homebuilders to preserve as many significant trees as possible. It’s a natural part of sustainable development in a community that devotes 700 acres – roughly half of its overall acreage – to parks, trails and preserved open spaces.

When a new neighborhood is developed in Sweetwater, Newland’s team walks each future homesite to review it for significant trees. Before a builder can start construction of a new home, they submit their proposed site layout for approval. With the tree map in hand, Newland is able to see how the proposed home, driveway and other features relate to any trees existing onsite.

If a major tree appears to be in the path of construction, Newland attempts to work with the builder to reposition the home and to save the tree. Sometimes, this means flipping the home plan, so that the driveway and garage are built on the opposite side of the homesite. Other times, it means setting the home back further, or moving it further to one side. Sometimes, a new floor plan altogether is chosen, with a footprint that is more compatible with the tree.

“It’s a partnership with the builders to help preserve Sweetwater’s beautiful Hill Country landscape,” said Rainer Ficken, vice president of development for Newland. “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also in our interest, because we all benefit when we save these majestic trees. Every time we work together to save a significant tree, it’s a win for everyone, including the environment.”

Sweetwater designs entire neighborhoods with tree preservation in mind.

In one of its newest neighborhoods, Hidden Springs, streets were laid out to preserve as many large existing trees as possible. The neighborhood was also designed to enhance access and views for the new Llano Stagecoach trail, which runs alongside it.

“Sometimes moving a street just a few feet can save one or more significant trees,” Ficken said. “Curving streets and varying the placement of homes on homesites also creates more attractive streetscapes throughout the community, which further complements the beauty of the trees.”

Sweetwater also adds new trees, such as the beautiful 30-foot-tall Shumard Red Oak tree that now crowns the hilltop of the community’s newest park. Grown about 200 miles away, in Athens, Texas, this Red Oak belongs to one of the best species for fall color in the Hill Country. You can see it in the new Madrone Ridge neighborhood.

In one of Sweetwater’s earliest stages of development, the developer worked carefully to save a rare

Texas Madrone tree, estimated to be 800 years old.  Today, this tree is one of the natural highlights along Sweetwater’s growing trail system.

Learn more about Sweetwater’s parks, trails and recreational amenities.