George Hine noted on a sunny morning in late May that during the past couple of years, he’s started getting minor “sinus stuff.”
That can be a tough thing for a city arborist.
“Maybe it’s time to retire,” George joked, while checking on blooming Schubert chokecherry trees on Howelsen Parkway.
There’s little chance of an early retirement. George has been Steamboat Springs’ arborist for 16 years, the majority of his 22-year career caring for trees, and is a man who clearly loves his job. He said he’s been interested in trees since he was growing up in Hazlet, N.J., and has probably planted about 1,000 trees across Steamboat since coming here in 1992 “for the mountains.”
Chris Wilson, director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, said George brings a personal touch to the city’s forestry program, interacting well with property owners who could be forced to remove an infected tree in accordance with a city ordinance to mitigate impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
“Certainly, George is the city’s Lorax,” Wilson said, referring to the Dr. Seuss character who famously speaks for the trees. “He can understand what people’s concerns are … and that can be difficult with folks losing a tree.”
George is usually at work by 6:30 in the morning with a list of jobs for the day. He said people have been understanding about how to best curb the beetle’s spread.
“Everybody’s been really compliant,” he said. “They’ve been really cool about it.”
In addition to keeping Steamboat a “Tree City USA” — an honor it’s earned for 19 years running from the National Arbor Day Foundation — George, 43, has helped hang and maintain the city’s downtown Christmas lights for years. There was a break in 2009 to enable the city’s switch to LED lighting, but George plans to resume the job in December.
A mountain biker, skier and motorcycle rider, George also is the proud father of Liam, 4.
Wilson said it’s easy to notice the bond father and son have when George brings Liam around the office.
“He keeps me moving,” George said about his son.
So do the trees.