Community Agriculture Alliance: The trees are thriving |

Community Agriculture Alliance: The trees are thriving

Sarah Jones/For the Steamboat Today

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Executive Director Sarah Jones

— If I had to guess how many thousands of buckets of water the Service Learning Corps and Community Youth Corps students carried this summer to water the seedlings planted as part of ReTree Steamboat, I would say at least 5,000. And because of all those buckets, I can report the trees are thriving!

On June 9, more than 1,000 Douglas fir, Englemann spruce and ponderosa pine were planted at Steamboat Ski Area as part of ReTree, which began in 2010 to replace trees killed by the mountain pine beetle. Since then, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council has taken on the ReTree program, and the event has evolved to focus on the bigger picture of getting people connected and committed to their community forests.

This change has led to a focus on quality over quantity of trees planted, collaboration with local foresters on diversity of species and a long-term investment in the survival of the trees. As part of that effort, the Sustainability Council and the Colorado State Forest Service educated the Service Learning Corps and Community Youth Corps students about how to care for the planted seedlings. The youth groups then watered and monitored the trees throughout the summer.

The ski area was not the only place where youths were involved in the planting and care of ReTree seedlings. Ninety lilac bushes were planted at Steamboat Springs High School by students from Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools, Emerald Mountain School and Steamboat Springs Middle School. In addition, students from Soroco High School helped plant more than 100 native 3-year seedlings at Stagecoach State Park, and with the help of the Stagecoach State Park staff, the Service Learning Corps students helped water those trees and build fences to protect the seedlings from porcupines and other predators.

Youths also will be involved this fall and into the spring to help monitor the health and survival of the trees. This ongoing involvement in the life of the new trees makes the ReTree experience more meaningful for youths and significantly increases the odds of survival for the trees.

But the work isn't over yet. There are additional opportunities for youths and adults to become involved in the stewardship of the newly planted trees. Additional protective enclosures need to be built at Stagecoach State Park this fall and scheduled workdays are from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 22 and Oct. 20. Individuals, families and organizations would would like to participate should contact Sustainability Council Executive Director Sarah Jones at

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Sarah Jones is the executive director of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

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