Clark Tasha Getten and Gibby and Max Kenney can rattle off beetle-kill information as well as any good Routt County local.
“All the beetle-kill is killing the trees on Howelsen and stuff, and we’re not at Howelsen, but we’re here,” Gibby said, “and trees are dying here, too.”
Tasha, Gibby and Max, ages 11, 9 and 6, respectively, were combating beetle-kill by planting lodgepole pine seedlings Saturday at Steamboat Lake State Park. The three worked alongside about 150 volunteers planting between campsites and in open space on Bridge Island as part of the ReTree Colorado effort.
Tasha came with her father, Jim Getten, and the Kenney boys and their mother, Nancy. The Gettens live in Stagecoach, and Jim said he plants about 40 trees per year on his property.
“I think it’s mostly for fun,” Tasha said about ReTree Colorado. “But I really love planting, and my dad loves planting, and everyone should help.”
Tristan Frolich organized the event, sending planting parties to Steamboat Lake, Spring Creek Trail, Seedhouse campgrounds, Hinman Park campgrounds and Mount Werner. More than 300 volunteers met at the Meadows Parking Lot at 9 a.m. and headed out planting afterward.
Frolich said they started with 14,000 trees and planted “a very, very good chunk of those.”
“It was never really about the numbers; it was never really about hitting that 14,000 goal,” he said. “It was just about getting people out and aware that they do have a voice about what happens in their forest and their campground and their backyard and to get them out to do something about it.”
The idea for ReTree Colorado began about a year ago, when Frolich entered the Green Effect contest, a collaboration between Sun Chips and National Geographic. The contest awarded grants to five recipients who created environmentally friendly projects that would affect their local communities. Frolich was one of those five and received a $20,000 grant for ReTree Colorado.
At Steamboat Lake State Park, ranger Ty Upson roamed the area, providing advice to planters. The group was planting about 6,000 trees, mostly lodgepole pines and some blue spruce. Part of the goal was to provide more shade on the relatively tree-free island and privacy between campsites.
Campers have expressed disappointment about a lack of trees on the island, Upson said, but some were helping plant today.
“Instead of complaining, they’re part of the solution,” he said.
Nearby, David and Tresa Moulton stomped shovels into the ground to create holes for their seedlings. The Steamboat Springs residents pitched in because they’ve experienced the impacts of beetle-kill. They can remember a time when Bridge Island contained plenty of trees and homes for birds and animals.
“We like to go birding, so we want to make sure they have someplace to live so we can go look at them,” David Moulton said.
The two came with volunteers from Yampatika and the Over The Hill Gang. They said they especially were impressed by how organized the event was.
“There was no confusion in the parking lot,” Tresa Moulton said, noting that volunteers got color-coded bracelets indicating the planting site they’d go to — turquoise for Steamboat Lake.
Christine McKelvie happened to be wearing a turquoise shirt that matched her bracelet. She also said the event was running smoothly.
“What’s really nice to me is to see a wide age range,” McKelvie said. “There’s little kids with their trowels and 20-somethings and some older folks. … It’s such a nice mix of people who care about the environment and want to do something besides bemoan the state of the forests and campsites.”
Mary Griffin, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, said the planting of the lodgepole pines would result in a more aesthetically pleasing island. She said she was impressed by the turnout and the “overwhelming volunteer support.”
Frolich said he’d like to continue the ReTree Colorado event in some capacity in other areas and next year in Steamboat. One difficulty, however, is finding areas that have been cleared and are ready for new trees, he said.
But he was happy with the inaugural event.
“It says a lot about Steamboat as a community really that we were able … on a limited notice to get 300 people to come out and plant trees with us all morning and have fun doing it,” Frolich said. “There’s not a whole lot of towns that you can say that about, and I think that’s what makes our community so special.”