Some cities hire arborists to oversee the tree population. Durango, Colorado is one of those cities. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Durango is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and beautiful terrain.
The city takes pride in its trees. Even though the soil in Southwest Colorado isn't as easy to grow trees in as some places around the nation, Durango supports almost 12,000 trees in a city where over 19,000 people live.
The Durango Herald does a good job of keeping people informed about what's going on in and near the city. Herald staff writer Christian Burney wrote an interesting article in the August 5, 2022 issue about the city's arborist, Matt Besecker. He keeps tabs on all the trees, what kinds they are, and where they're located. There are lots of different varieties, from chestnuts and American elms to cottonwoods, ponderosa pines, and a host of other species.
There are lots of things to think about when taking care of trees in a city surrounded by mountains, where wild animals roam. That's a big reason why the city doesn't plant fruit-bearing trees. The fruit would attract bears and deer into town, and that could cause significant problems. Few people want to encounter a bear while they're shopping at the local supermarket or when they're taking a stroll down a city street with their family.
Instead of fruit-bearing trees, the city plants trees such as crab apples and Krauter Vesuvius plums. They are bred not to produce fruit, but they do have pretty flowers.
Besecker works with a crew of city employees to promote tree planting. The city has a 50/50 cost sharing program that lets residents help with planting trees. In that arrangement, the tree is planted somewhere on the person's property that is also in a city-owned public right of way. The city and the land owner each pay for half the cost of the tree. The city provides the labor to install the tree, and the land owner takes care of it by watering it.
The city tries to plant a variety of different trees so that if one type of tree is damaged by disease, other trees will remain healthy. Besecker and his crew spend a lot of time maintaining all the trees in town. They sometimes have to remove sick or dead ones. Some trees remain healthy for many years, including the city's oldest tree, a ponderosa pine that's about 200 years old.
I'm not sure how common it is for cities to hire arborists to take care of their trees, but I think it's a great idea.