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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Forward-thinking Austin residents really should do a 180 when it comes to decorating the trees on 360

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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

The trees along 360 north of 2222 have been decorated already but when will they be undecorated and who will take on that thankless task?

The trees along 360 north of 2222 have been decorated already but when will they be undecorated and who will take on that thankless task?

Dave Winter

The trees along 360 north of 2222 have been decorated already but when will they be undecorated and who will take on that thankless task?

Dave Winter

Dave Winter

The trees along 360 north of 2222 have been decorated already but when will they be undecorated and who will take on that thankless task?

Zoe Hocker, co-editor in chief

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Everybody loves the holidays. After Thanksgiving is over, I love to hear Christmas music and begin to decorate here and there as Winter break inches closer. The annual Austin traditions of the Trail of Lights, Mozart’s Christmas Lights show and ice skating at Whole Foods are all events that I support and take part in alongside the rest of Austin. In recent years, however, a new tradition has formed that I will not participate in.

Fallen ornaments can be extremely disruptive to the environment and animals that inhabit the area.”

Gaining popularity in the past five years, decorating the trees on the sides of Highway 360 has become an event that hundreds take part in starting in November. Austinites take their family and friends to the highway with ribbons, ornaments and every decoration you can think of throwing on a tree in hand. As harmless as this activity may seem, there are many downsides to the holiday tradition.

The issues start before the decorating even begins. Drivers pull over onto the shoulders of busy 360 to unload their family, sometimes including small children, friends and decorations. The speed limit throughout the highway, aside from the bridge portion, is 60 mph. That speed gives drivers little to no reaction time if there was an incident where a person or object entered the road a mere 15 feet from their car. This puts decorators and drivers in danger.

Illustration by Zoe Hocker

Next up is the decorating itself. While putting up ornaments, tinsel and whatever else your heart desires may seem harmless, it isn’t entirely. Unless these items are securely fastened, they can be extremely disruptive to the environment and animals that inhabit the area. Going out to decorate in early November, leaves at least two months for wind and rain to bring down the cheerful candy canes and bows and allow them to end up in the nearby creeks, on the highway or in the habitats of animals in the area. This isn’t the last of the litter problems either. The pre-holiday period is only the beginning.

Valentine’s Day always leaves me scratching my head when I still see bows strewn across the fields and ornaments bouncing around the trees in the wind. ”

As Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s roll around, the decorations are a festive addition to an otherwise hilly green landscape. For me, this short amount of time is not worth the painful weeks that follow. Once February hit the calendar, I think it is fair to ask that decorations be taken down and cleaned up from the trees. That is not too much to ask. Valentine’s Day always leaves me scratching my head when I still see bows strewn across the fields and ornaments bouncing around the trees in the wind. The litter does nothing but increase over time. In some ways, I can’t even blame the people decorating. There is no driving force that is making them come back to clean up their trees. This is the issue.

I feel that there needs to be some sort of change. The city needs to recognize that this tradition has picked up speed and is now large enough to require some regulations. Whether that be banning the decorating or simply charging a small fee that decorators can pay to someone clean up after them. Either of these options and others would be better than the current situation. Lastly, coming from someone who drives often on 360, please be respectful of the area if you decide to decorate this season. As the Girl Scouts always say, leave a place better than you found it.

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