Denver Digs Trees

(Denver, CO) The Park People’s NeighborWoods-supported Denver Digs Trees program subsidizes the distribution and planting over 2,000 mature trees throughout Denver, with free trees going to residents in low-income communities.

Category: Tree Distribution
Since 1990, The Park People’s Denver Digs Trees program has been enhancing the city by helping to shade streets and beautify and strengthen neighborhoods. Funding partners make it possible for mature trees to be offered at a fraction of their cost, with free trees going to residents in underserved neighborhoods. Their special efforts in Denver’s low-income neighborhoods are testament to the value of ensuring that all residents benefit from healthy and beautiful communities.
Since 1971, The Park People have been preserving, enhancing, and advocating for Denver’s parks, recreation resources, open space, and urban forest.
To make sure that underserved residents are aware of the free tree offer, The Park People works with affordable housing organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and the Denver Housing Authority. These partnerships provide access to low-income housing projects where trees can play a special role in increasing property values, saving energy, and strengthening communities. The Park People also target low-income neighborhoods, public housing complexes, and neighborhoods that meet the following criteria: fall below 5% tree canopy coverage, poverty level is greater than 20%, have the highest crime rates (140 crimes per 1,000 cpm), the lowest average household income (average $38,555), and the lowest average home value (average $186,942 compared to $278,024 citywide).
Through heightened neighborhood participation and strong partnerships, The Park People oversaw an increase in the number of trees being planted in Denver, and particularly in the city’s low-income communities.
By now, most residents are of the Denver Digs Trees program. So the program is initiated in the fall when residents complete a request for trees. With advice and materials provided by The Park, People, it is up to the individual resident to measure space between trees and select right tree for the site. In February, information is confirmed by The Park People’s site inspectors, who coordinate with residents about the number and species of street trees. Once approved for a street tree, residents are encouraged to attend a Tree Planting & Care Workshop in March. By April, trees are delivered to six sites across the city, residents pick them up, and the Department of Forestry provides additional tree care resources on site (including tree guards, free mulch, and planting assistance if requested).
All trees become the responsibility of the property owner. However, The Park People are still concerned with tree survival. They provide information to residents on how to properly plant and care for their trees. Then between July and September, volunteers perform survival inspections. If The Park People’s volunteers observe a stressed tree, it is brought to the resident’s attention with advice on how to help the tree recover.
There are many partners who help The Park People to make Denver Digs Trees to work. They include:
* Denver Forestry identifies appropriate tree species, conducts volunteer site inspector trainings, and provides distribution sites.
* Denver Housing Authority identifies public housing units for planting sites, coordinates tree care with property maintenance crews, and engages residents of public housing properties in tree planting and care.
* Denver Housing & Neighborhood Development Services identifies neighborhoods/communities in need, provides introductions between The Park People and neighborhood organizations, and refers other affordable housing nonprofits to The Park People
* Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver identifies Habitat residential sites for tree planting and engages property owners in tree care.
* Xcel Energy provides technical advice on planting trees for energy savings.
* Recruited and trained 50 Neighborhood Outreach Captains
* Added 1,200 new street trees and 933 private property trees
* Conducted 4 planting and care workshops
* Published the guide, “Sapling In The City: A Denver Resident’s Guide To Raising A Happy & Healthy Tree In An Urban Environment”
* Recruited and trained 250 volunteers for site inspections and planting
* Achieved 75% survival rate
Lessons Learned
1. Work with arborists and other experts such as the city department of forestry on tree selection, maintenance, and training.
2. Residents are not always home during site inspections. Create door hangers to leave advice about tree conditions and maintenance.
3. Don’t lose track of the smaller picture. Chart progress weekly to document results and the little victories.
Contact Information:
Patrick Hayes
Executive Director
The Park People
715 S. Franklin Street
Denver, CO 80209
Phone: 303-722-6262
Fax: 303-722-8812