Steamboat Springs Dianne Stoyko sat back on her heels and admired the simple but impactful act she had just completed.
“Here’s my little one,” she said, looking down at an 8-inch sapling of an evergreen tree she had just planted in an aspen grove on Emerald Mountain. “I hope he’s going to do OK.”
Under the bright Saturday morning sun, Stoyko spent two hours with friends Steph Berens and Cindy Svendsen planting trees in ideal locations for them to grow tall and strong, adding to the diversity of the Emerald Mountain forests.
All three women had come on their own, armed with shovels and water, but soon found that they weren’t the only ones interested in giving back to the
natural environment of Steamboat Springs.
One hundred and sixty volunteers had taken the chairlift up Howelsen Hill and hiked to various locations to plant more than 3,000 trees during the second annual ReTree Steamboat event to help replenish local forests after losses from the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
“You always run into people you know when there’s an opportunity like this in Steamboat,” Berens said. “We have a fantastic volunteer mentality here.”
Organized by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, ReTree Steamboat is the new incarnation of last year’s inaugural ReTree Colorado event, which was funded by a $20,000 grant secured by local resident Tristan Frolich through the SunChips and National Geographic Green Effect contest.
YVSC took over the event this year and secured funds for 4,000 trees, focusing on quality over quantity.
Most of the trees were designated for Emerald Mountain, with 500 going to a site on Mount Werner. The Mount Werner plant site was canceled Saturday because of multiple mudslides presenting safety issues. Those trees will be planted at a later date, YVSC coordinator Kim Kline said.
“Everyone’s been really flexible and enthusiastic,” Kline said. “Today’s been a great educational and bonding opportunity, and we’re glad to have so many families out here. It makes a wonderful impact on the kids.”
Among the volunteers was a group of preteens on a project with the Service Learning Institute. The nine boys had volunteered to spend their morning learning about tree biology and planting strategies from crew leaders and ReTree volunteers.
All of the boys agreed that trees provide invaluable resources such as oxygen, shade and habitats for other creatures.
“There are some places in cities where they don’t get to see trees,” said Alex Thompson, 11, as he trudged across a meadow to a planting site. “We’re so lucky that we get to be outside in nature doing fun things like this.”
For Frolich, planting the trees does more than diversify the forests and replace trees lost to the pine beetle epidemic: planting a tree is like writing the first page in a story of Steamboat’s environmental future.
He said he recently went back to the Spring Creek area where last year’s volunteers planted hundreds of saplings. There he saw several of the young trees still growing, still reaching toward the sky.
“My kids could see this tree; my grandkids could see this tree,” he said. “And it’s gratifying just knowing you can make that difference.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com