Hamilton Greenbelt Wildfire Fuels Reduction Project
In October 2019, the annual budget approved by Lakeway City Council included $350,000 for a massive wildfire fuel reduction project in Hamilton Greenbelt. The entire project is expected to last 18 months or more. The goal is to reduce wildfire intensity in the greenbelt by removing dead wood throughout the entire greenbelt and installing shaded fuel breaks in strategic areas behind homes.
The majority of the fuel reduction work will be performed by contract crews, but volunteer groups have joined the immense cleanup effort. The Cavalier Chapter of Young Men’s Service League led the way by selecting the Hamilton Greenbelt project for their 2019 Ultimate Gift. The energetic group hauled and dragged 17 tons of wood out of Hamilton Greenbelt II during a series of four workdays in November and December 2019. They also delivered printed information on how to protect homes from wildfire to 117 homes around the greenbelt. The YMSL was recognized for their contribution at the January 21, 2020 City Council meeting with a proclamation by Mayor Sandy Cox.
On February 29, twenty-six volunteers from River of the Hills church youth group dragged 1 - 1/2 tons out of the steeply sloped trails on Hamilton Greenbelt II. That same group has volunteered to return to Hamilton Greenbelt once a month to drag more brush, but unfortunately those plans have been put on hold with the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders.
Elmer Tyler and Dave Cross, Lakeway’s own Chainsaw Champions since 2013, cut up dead wood and brush into smaller pieces near the Lohmans Crossing Road entrance of Hamilton Greenbelt I to prepare for an influx of youthful volunteers in March. They also pruned low-hanging branches to reduce the risk that eye-level branches could injure volunteers. The Chainsaw Champions’ many years of experience and attention to safety have been a huge benefit to Lakeway.
Lake Travis Middle School and Bee Cave Middle School offered their yearly Day of Service on March 12 to support the Hamilton Greenbelt project. Two hundred young volunteers worked around the main entrance of Hamilton Greenbelt dragging cut brush and logs to chippers. When they ran out of brush close to the chipper they dragged dead brush downhill near the main trail, building a long low pile to be picked up by a bobcat. Four hundred hands make for speedy work and they accomplished a lot in a very short time!
The COVID-19 crisis has shut down the volunteer workdays for awhile, but wildfire fuel reduction is still considered to be essential work to protect Lakeway homeowners from wildfire. Lake Travis Fire Rescue’s wildland fuels reduction crew has moved south into Hamilton Greenbelt I from March through May. Additional contract crews will be hired to continue the work through the summer until all of Hamilton Greenbelt I is cleared. LTFR’s crew will return in fall 2020 to help complete Hamilton Greenbelt I before tackling the less accessible parts of Hamilton Greenbelt II.
Hikers, bikers and other recreational users should stay clear of the work crews, who will be running chainsaws, utility vehicles, bobcats and chippers. Areas delineated with orange construction cones and yellow caution flagging are off limits.
Lake Travis Fire Rescue’s wildfire crew worked in Units 3 and 4 near the Duck Lake entrance to Hamilton Greenbelt. Those two units are now complete. Unit 3 is a shaded fuel break to protect homes. Dead trees and woody brush on the ground were removed from Unit 4.
As of May 12, the crew has almost completed Unit 5 behind 215 to 407 Palos Verdes and is expected to move to Unit 6 next week. Unit 5 is a shaded fuel break, while Unit 6 will be dead/downed fuels removal only.
Unit 6 is in a section of Hamilton Greenbelt that receives high levels of recreational use. The chipper and dump trucks may need to use the main trail to haul out the wood. Trail users are requested to detour off the main trail onto side trails for their own safety when they see the chipper and trucks at work.
The crew will be working from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays only. Nearby residents should expect to hear a chipper and chainsaw running during those hours. The crew will not work Saturdays, Sundays or Mondays.
For more information about this project and other wildfire-related issues in Lakeway, please email Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Chris Rea or call him at 512-645-5840.