Gardens and Forestry staff plant trees at Two Rivers Park on Friday, Oct. 6. Photo courtesy of the City of Glenwood Springs

On Sept. 14, the City of Glenwood Springs was awarded a $600,000 grant for urban and community forestry, expanding the city’s community forestry program sixfold over the course of the next five years to make for a greener, more environmentally equitable Glenwood.

The grant was received as part of a sweeping action by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, which invested over $1 billion in projects nationwide to improve access to trees. Of that total billion, $37.2 million was awarded to the Rocky Mountain Region. Thanks to matching funds from the city, the budget for the forestry program will expand from this year’s $50,000 to $200,000 in 2024, and after that will gradually increase year by year until it peaks at $300,000 in 2028.

The massive expansion in budget will be allocated towards tree planting, maintenance and community education programs over the next several years. The funding came at an opportune moment, as over the past year city staff performed a massive inventory of trees in the right-of-way, assessing species, health, management needs and more in order to determine where best to direct forestry efforts. Urban Ecology & Public Spaces Supervisor Heather Listermann stated that after the study it’s clear that a significant amount of work needs to be done in both public and private rights-of-way.

In Glenwood — and commonly across the country — private property owners are responsible for the maintenance of trees in the right-of-way. Since the maintenance of trees can be a delicate business typically requiring the use of a trained arborist, many homeowners can have a difficult time affording to keep trees healthy and safe. 

“Trees are an incredible public asset that are not always budgeted for,” Listermann stated. Because of this — as well as a need for right-of-way tree work across town — Glenwood Springs City Council approved a one-time reimbursement program so that residents can afford tree work. Residents can apply online for up to a $1,500 match of funding for treating, pruning, removing and/or replacing high risk trees in the right-of-way.

Previously, the community forestry program’s $50,000 budget was primarily reserved for emergency tree care in parks and public spaces. While reimbursement to private property owners is only available between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, city staff will be working over the next few months to expand on this program with new grant funds over the next year and beyond. According to Listermann, about 50% of the funding will be directed to this right-of-way assistance program and/or a similar program in the future, enabling the improvement of tree coverage even for those experiencing financial difficulties.

“Taking care of trees is important for quality of life as well as the vibrancy and longevity of the community,” said Public Information Officer Bryana Starbuck. “Being able to expand the funds for the program is a really big windfall for preserving the canopy and the community.”

Part of the funding will also be directed towards community education programming. Since the influx of money is recent, the city is still working on developing programs, but right now citizens can look forward to next year’s Arbor Day, during which the city will host an event in order to educate citizens on water smart species and proper planting techniques.

In terms of tree health, the City of Glenwood has luckily remained emerald ash borer free. This bright green beetle, found in Carbondale in June, is an invasive species native to Asia which has killed millions of ash trees across the world. However, Glenwood has identified lilac ash borers — a similar species — as well as bark beetles within its city limits, and the city has been taking preventative measures in order to preserve its precious trees.

Starbuck encourages citizens to check their trees frequently for signs of pests and illness. A guide to various symptoms and species is available on the city’s Gardens and Forestry webpage. However, citizens are discouraged from attempting maintenance themselves, as sick trees can be delicate. Instead, folks concerned for their trees can contact the tree hotline at 970-384-6336 or  Citizens who are also interested in the right-of-way reimbursement program can find a form online, also on the Gardens and Forestry webpage.