AUSTIN, Texas — When you drive along Loop 360 during the holidays, decorations line the road.
The Nickens family has been decorating for the past 20 years. But in the past decade, the reason has become much more meaningful.
“We started doing the bees in 2010 – my mom got sick and she was known as ‘honey bee,’” said Melissa Moze, who leads the family tree decoration every year.
The family gets together to create the honey bees – made of painted plastic containers, wrapped in yellow duct tape, complete with wings made of window screens – and then goes out to their favorite tree along the highway to decorate it all together.
“It's really meaningful to all of my family and our friends,” Moze said. “It's just something meaningful to do over the holidays to help remember my mom.”
Last year, the decorations were taken down before Christmas came. This year, Moze attached a letter to the tree to share its story.
But this year there’s growing concern the Honey Bee Tree will be cleaned up during a Facebook event called “Santa’s Cleanup Crew Rampage,” which indicates the plan is to clean up the ornaments on Sunday afternoon. The organizers wrote the goal is to keep litter from getting to the waterways and the Greenbelt.
The Bull Creek Foundation asked Austinites not to decorate the trees along 360 back in October, calling it litter.
“I understand what they're doing. A lot of people don't come and clean up their trees and it does make a mess,” Moze said. “I'm not doing this to hurt anybody or hurt an animal or have my bees end up in the ocean or in the watershed.”
She said the family returns by Jan. 2 every year to clean up the tree and reuse the honey bee ornaments the next year.
Moze’s nieces, Polly and Jilly Nickens, remember going to decorate the tree since they were young.
“This has always been a special moment for our family,” said Jilly, 16. “Our family is not trying to hurt the environment in any way.”
Moze said they will be out at the Honey Bee Tree on Sunday to make sure the cleanup crew knows her tree’s story, even though she said she knows it may be difficult to change anyone’s mind.