Steamboat Springs Christmas trees may brighten homes for only a short season, but their usefulness extends long after the holidays.
The evergreens can be recycled.
The city of Steamboat Springs will accept live Christmas trees for recycling throughout January.
The city shared the task of recycling the trees with a now-obsolete landscaping business before solely taking on the project three years ago at the Howelsen Ice Arena. People should bring their trees to the northwest corner of the ice arena's parking lot.
Crews plowed the area Wednesday to make way for trees that have already begun arriving, city parks supervisor Ernie Jenkins said
The trees are recycled on site, as volume dictates, he said.
As the trees pile up, they will be ground into mulch to be used for city parks in the spring.
Residents can also use the mulch for their yards.
Because the amount of mulch generated from such a large number of trees is less than what might be expected, Jenkins said, people who wish to receive some of the mulch must act quickly.
"It's first come, first serve," he said.
Jenkins stressed that trees be free of decorations. Tinsel, lights, ornaments and ribbons only hinder the city's efforts to make the mulch, he said.
"It's for the sake of recycling," he said. "We just want it to be a natural product."
Wreaths, which often come with wiring or other small decorations, are not allowed at the drop-off site.
It is important that people bring their trees to the ice arena parking lot and not the ski area parking lot, Jenkins said.
A few trees have been left near the Howelsen ski area in the past, he added.
Jenkins said the recycling program continues to gain support from the community, with a greater number of trees turned in every year.
People can still get fresh trees with a Christmas tree permit from the U.S. Forest Service.
Some visitors will purchase permits after Christmas for New Year's celebrations, said Wendy Holden, Forest Service public information technician.
People who want to keep their Christmas trees around a little longer but don't want to keep them in their house can try a different form of recycling.
The old trees provide an excellent habitat for birds in the winter, said Barbara Hughes, chairwoman of Yampa Valley Recycles.
The trees can be placed on porches or in backyards and fitted with some pinecones filled with peanut butter and birdseed, she said.