Denver Digs Trees Gears Up to Fight Emerald Ash Borer

The current Westword cover story, "What's Killing the Trees in Denver Parks?", examines an emerging controversy over Denver Water's recycled water program, which provides wastewater that’s been sufficiently treated for irrigation purposes at a fraction of the cost of potable water. Denver's parks department has saved millions by switching numerous parks and other properties to reused water, but the high amount of sodium in the stuff is being blamed for dying conifers in Washington Park and elsewhere. Although studies dating back five years have made several recommendations for alleviating the problem, city officials say they're still studying the problem.

Unfortunately, the high-salt diet isn't the only hazard facing the city's urban forest these days. A potentially more devastating threat has been creeping closer every year: the emerald ash borer, a voracious, non-native insect that's been devastating ash stands across the Midwest (razing property values in the process) and is now found in 25 states and two Canadian provinces. The good news is that the office of Denver's City Forester and a network of park advocates have been preparing a pre-emptive response.

The ash borer was first spotted in Boulder in 2013. That's close enough for the Park People to start planning ways to minimize the losses to the hungry bug in the Denver area, where ash trees account for about 15 percent of the tree stock. Some measures, such as being careful about moving firewood and applying chemical treatments to ash trees in the quarantine area, are spelled out on the state's Emerald Ash Borer page. But the Park People have another suggestion, too — check out their Denver Digs Trees program, which offers healthy trees at the low, low cost of ten bucks to residents in neighborhoods with low tree coverage. 

"We can lessen the impact that emerald ash borer will have on our urban forest by proactively planting trees in the gaps in our existing tree canopy," says Park People executive director Kim Yuan-Farrell.

To find out what tree species are offered and if you live in one of the neighborhoods that qualify for the $10 rate, check out the Denver Digs Trees site. Treeships (free trees) are also available for those who qualify; the deadline to apply is February 15, 2016. And yes, spring planting is not all that far off. 

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast