City to hand out trees to celebrate Arbor Day
The city of Aspen will celebrate Arbor Day on Friday with a ceremony and distribution of free trees at noon in Rio Grande Park.
The city will give away 275 trees to city residents, on a first-come, first-served basis at the celebration. The tree giveaway will follow a ceremony honoring the city with awards granted by the Colorado State Forest Service.
Stephen Ellsperman, forester for the city, said the trees to be given away will include some species already common in the city and others that will bring more variety. He said some common mountain species such as aspen, cottonwood, spruce and pine will be given out. In addition, less common trees such as mountain ash, alder, American plum, serviceberry and a hardy and attractive hybrid birch variety will also be available.
“One of our goals is to diversify the urban forest,” Ellsperman said. This variety will add to the aesthetics of the town, but will also make the urban forest more resistant to diseases and blights that might take a great toll if only one or two species were present.
Ellsperman said most of the trees are five to six feet tall and measure about one inch in diameter. “They’ll survive real well and they’ll provide immediate benefit to the citizens,” he said.
To receive a tree, residents must provide evidence of residency, and will be required to show a utility bill and a driver’s license or a voter’s registration card. No post office box addresses will be accepted.
The tree giveaway is part of Aspen Parks Department’s community forest program called Backyard Forestry, designed to enlist the help of citizens in maintaining the community’s forest.
New trees are needed to keep the town’s forest healthy, Ellsperman said. Aspen now has one of the premier urban forests compared to other mountain communities, he said, but as the large trees decline, it’s important to be sure plenty of younger trees are maturing to sustain the forest.
At the Arbor Day celebration, Aspen will receive the Tree City U.S.A. award from the State Forest Service, an award Aspen has earned eight years in a row. The city will also receive a growth award this year, Ellsperman said, for the extra planning and management the town puts into its forestry program.
Ellsperman said he and other city parks staff members will be on hand to answer citizens’ questions about successfully growing trees in Aspen. “My whole goal is to promote the best possible opportunity for people to ask questions about anything tree- or forest-related,” he said.
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.