AUSTIN (KXAN) — With the Christmas holiday season coming to a close, the process of cleaning up decorations placed on cedar trees along Loop 360 has begun. It’s become an Austin tradition that has seen greater ambition and community involvement in recent years. This year was no exception.
Chuck Munson has lived in Austin nearly his entire life. However, it wasn’t until five years ago that he says he started taking part in the tradition.
“I’m trying to contribute to a tradition that I think is really great,” said Munson. This year, he decorated his cedar tree close to his home with his grandson. “I think he did a good job. He was the one that picked out the particular tree.”
With record participation in 2016, the threat of litter as a result of the tradition has a become a greater concern. Munson says he understands it. That’s why every year he participates in the decoration clean-up and then recycles the materials he cleans up and uses them on his cedar tree the next year.
“The vast majority of things do get cleaned up, but there are some that don’t and all the sudden, you got an inventory for the next year, and that’s what we’ve done here,” said Munson. “It’s a tradition. But, with any kind of tradition, there’s a responsibility and the responsibility is to pick up after yourself.”
The Austin Police Department agrees. “Decorations left up post-holidays do become litter,” said senior Austin Police Officer Destiny Winston. “So, please, if you decorated a tree, go ahead and return back and pick up your decorations.”
Safety, however, has become another serious concern.
“When you’re doing activities such as removing Christmas decorations from Christmas trees, you need to keep in mind that this is still on a busy roadway. Taking risks and not being mindful of this can have serious consequences. It’s important to stay vigilant and make safe decisions,” added Winston.
Munson said he chose his cedar tree this year based on its safer proximity to the roadway.
“This was a good one,” he said. “One, we’re on a straight stretch. Two, we’re on a flat stretch, and then three, we’re at least 30 or 40 feet off of the road and I think that is important.” Munson says he is leery of decorating those cedar trees located on top of hills along 360.
Austin police say if you are going to participate in cleaning up the trees in this area, you should prepare beforehand.
“When you are driving over to this location, plan on traffic. Plan on a large volume of cars on the roadway. So, be patient, be polite and drive safely. When you do arrive at the destination and you have decided to remove the decorations, keep in mind the weather elements. Wind and rain can make things problematic–not only for removing the decorations but for traffic as well,” said Winston.
APD also recommends young children do not participate in clean-up efforts, as traffic presents a serious safety hazard. Officers advise that if children are participating, that they are kept far away from the roadway.
For more information about Keep Austin Beautiful and their efforts in the coming weeks to clean-up the area, visit their website.