ReTree event has deep roots in Steamboat Springs community | SteamboatToday.com

ReTree event has deep roots in Steamboat Springs community

Volunteers with the seventh annual ReTree event, held Saturday at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area, take a moment to survey their work. The volunteers dedicated their Saturday morning to planting about 400 trees along the reconditioned banks of the Yampa River.

— More than 90 volunteers turned out to the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area on Saturday to spend their morning planting almost 400 trees — 280 willows and 110 alders, both native, riparian species — along the rehabilitated banks of the Yampa River as part of the seventh annual ReTree event.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been working for several years to restore the channel, reduce erosion and provide better habitat for native fish species, and the ReTree efforts represent one of the final phases of the project.

"In 2013, we did a complete realignment of the bank," said Billy Atkinson, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. He added, however, that, at the time, re-vegetating the bank would have been prohibitively expensive.

That's where Saturday's eclectic assembly of ReTree volunteers came in.

Ranging in age from toddler to senior citizen, Saturday's volunteer crew carried out the vital work of re-vegetating the bank, which, according to Atkinson, is crucial to maintaining the health of the river and its ecosystem.

"We're trying to establish a good, healthy understory," Atkinson said. "It's important for the fish, who use it for cover and shade, and it also adds detritus to the river, which feeds fish and other aquatic life. The bank benefits from the stabilization the trees give it."

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Anne Mudgett and Sarah Jones — both with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, which plays a major role in organizing the event each year — said much of the event's appeal is tapped in to the deep roots that anchor the Steamboat community to the natural landscape it calls home.

"This is the only event we have to turn volunteers away for," Jones added. "It's really meaningful for them."

Saturday's event was supported by funding and other contributions from CPW, Inquiring Systems, Inc., the Clif Bar Family Foundation, LDM Global, New Belgium Brewing Company, Snow Country Nursery, Rotary International, New Power Fund.com, Mount Werner Water, Ace Hardware, Wagner Rentals, Picking Construction, Duckels Construction and Colorado State Forest Service.

Mudgett and Jones also expressed appreciation for the artwork for this year's T-shirt, an original woodblock piece created by Steamboat artist Jill Bergman.

To reach Jim Patterson, call 970-871-4208, email jpatterson@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JimPatterson15