Aspen’s Connection to Aspens, Other Trees to Culminate on June 8

Aspen’s Connection to Aspens, Other Trees to Culminate on June 8

For 30 years, Aspen has held the title of Tree City USA, one granted by the Arbor Day Foundation to communities that meet four requirements:

  1. The city must maintain a tree board or department, meaning they have a paid official who manages the trees, that could be a city arborist or forester. (David Coon is Aspen’s city forester);
  2. The city must spend at least $2 per capita on forestry in the city;
  3. It must have a community tree ordinance;
  4. It must celebrate Arbor Day as a city.

This year’s Arbor Day celebration will be in Paepcke Park on Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m.-noon and will be a celebration of Aspen’s 30th year as Tree City, USA. The event will be complete with free hotdogs, a raffle, a bucket truck ride, and 120 free trees for Aspen residents who come with proof of residence, such as a utility bill. The trees will come with a manual on how to plant and care for it. Attendees can also see an exhibit on Aspen’s history with trees, as well as learn about how to plant and care for trees as well as identify tree-affecting insects and diseases. 

“We give away trees to encourage people to plant trees in town,” Coon said. “We’re promoting diversity and more ownership of the community forest through that.”

Aspen has a long history of supporting trees in the community. In order to remove trees in Aspen — any native tree with a trunk width of at least three inches or measuring four and a half feet from the ground — requires a permit. Any removal of trees or disturbance of soil near trees, whether it be from construction or something else, requires applying for a permit. Most trees will need to be evaluated; Aspen does this to protect the social and environmental integrity of the community’s trees and forests. 

Connection to the community’s forests comes with Aspen’s longstanding history of environmental activism. Aspen’s goal is to maintain 30% canopy coverage from trees over Aspen, and it measured at 35.7% during the last measurement. The city uses satellite imagery and liDAR to map the trees.

“Generally, there’s a really strong sense of appreciation for trees and almost even a reverence,” Coon said.

Aspen is also moving towards a more diverse urban forest, as best practice calls for no single tree exceeding 10% of the total number of trees. This helps defend the forest from insects and disease that affect one particular species. The more diverse an urban forest, the more resilient it will be. The last measurement counted narrowleaf cottonwoods at 34% of total trees. Some secondary mapping, however, brought the total percent down to 27%, showing Aspen’s progress towards a more robust forest.


By: Beau Toepfer I The Aspen Time I June 2, 2024

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