Root of a Problem

When I requested two free street trees from the Park People’s Denver Digs Trees program and then purchased two more for my yard this spring, I thought I was part of the solution — providing shade, eliminating CO2, increasing my property value, not to mention contributing to Greenprint Denver’s Mile High Million tally.

Turns out I may be part of the problem. “Street trees are always talked about as bringing nature to the city,” explains Kourtnie Harris, a graduate student in landscape architecture at the University of Colorado Denver and a member of DESIGN4. “There are a lot of issues with street trees that aren’t known to the general public and the community,” namely that they often live just twelve to fifteen years because the roots don’t have room to grow and they’re poorly maintained. “There are dead trees everywhere,” Harris adds, because well-intentioned planters don’t properly protect and water their investments.

DESIGN4 created TerraLab: The Secret Life of Street Trees — an outdoor installation of reused trees and recycled materials painted white, meant as “a metaphor for a suffocating forest” — to get the community “thinking about the value and the problem of street trees,” Harris adds. The installation will be displayed in the Artdistrict on Santa Fe between 7th and 9th Avenues through July. Learn more at
July 1-31, 2010

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