Celebrate our `urban forest’ on Saturday | AspenTimes.com

Celebrate our `urban forest’ on Saturday

Jeremy Heiman

Aspen’s annual Arbor Day celebration will again feature a tree giveaway.

A proclamation by Mayor Rachel Richards will kick off the Arbor Day celebration at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The activities will take place in conjunction with the Earth Day activities at ACES.

Any Aspen resident is eligible to receive a free tree, or possibly two, depending on how many people show up, said Stephen Ellsperman, the city’s forester.

Tree species available will include common mountain species such as aspen, cottonwood, Gambel oak and Colorado blue spruce. But also available will be three varieties of maple, two varieties of mountain ash, paper birch, a thornless hawthorn, mayday trees and bristlecone pine.

There will be a drawing for one Mugo pine and four large Canada red cherries.

Along with the trees, advice will be provided on what trees will grow best in every kind of location.

“We’ve done a lot of work to find out what trees do well here,” Ellsperman said.

The trees will be four to five feet tall, Ellsperman said, and their roots will be contained in five- and seven-gallon tubs. Trees of this size have a high survival rate, and have immediate benefits to what Ellsperman calls the “urban forest.” They would cost perhaps $30 or $40 in a nursery.

Residents who receive trees will want to have their personal vehicles on hand to transport them home.

To receive a tree, residents must provide evidence of residency, and will be required to show a utility bill that shows a street address, along with a driver’s license or a voter registration card. No post office box addresses will be accepted.

Tree diversity in the “urban forest” is important to the long-term health of the forest, Ellsperman said. If only one or two species are present, the chances of losing a great percentage of the urban trees to a blight or insect infestation are greater.

New trees are needed to keep the town’s forest from declining. Aspen now has one of the premier urban forests compared to other mountain communities, Ellsperman said. But as the large trees get older, it’s important to be sure plenty of younger trees are maturing to sustain the forest.

“This is the day we celebrate our urban forest,” he said. “We need to be aware of it and keep revitalizing it.”

Though Arbor Day comes once a year, the city has a year-round Backyard Forestry program, Ellsperman added. Residents with questions on tree planting and tree health should call Ellsperman at 920-6010.

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