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Grant Funds Tree Planting on Campus in Honor of Felled Silver Maple

students and staff digging a hole in the grass to plant a tree

May 5, 2023

The grounds of the University of Northern Colorado received a welcome living, breathing facelift last week. As part of Arbor Day and Earth Day celebrations this year, students, faculty and staff picked up shovels and got their hands dirty planting 122 new trees across the university’s 250-acre campus. 

UNC has been recognized as a Tree Campus Higher Education Institution by the Arbor Day Foundation every year since 2012. The annual recognition, which the university received again this past March, honors colleges and universities for their effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.  

This year’s recognition coincided with a $4,000 grant from the Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) that helped fund the 122 new trees, a goal the university set last fall after losing the former grand champion silver maple tree, which was estimated to be approximately 122 years old. The tree, which is suspected to have been the oldest and largest tree on campus, was taken down last October after it was found to be harboring dangerous decomposition. Measuring in at six feet in diameter, the loss of such a historic, award-winning tree was devastating to those who had fond memories of it. 

“The silver maple was planted circa 1800,” said Sarah Boyd, the Landscaping and Grounds manager for UNC. “That's a big loss for campus. It’s a tree that many students, faculty and staff have engaged with and supported events and activities around. I've even had families share stories with me about how they've taken their family photos with that tree annually.” 

The new trees were planted April 21 and 28 by staff from Landscaping and Grounds and volunteers from Student L.E.A.F., Earth Guardians and students from UNC’s ENST 364 Leadership and Community Building course who have been working all semester with the City of Greeley Forestry Department to engage the community around tree planting. The trees included a mixture of birch, ginkgos and other species, and were planted near Carter Hall, McKee Hall, the Xeric Garden and other locations across campus. 

Not only are the new trees an homage to the silver maple, they are an important and long-overdue addition to the campus. According to Boyd, the university has been losing trees faster than they have been replacing them for several years. Replanting trees not only provides aesthetic benefits to the campus, it also benefits the environment and the experiences of people on campus.  

“We're very fortunate to have an older campus with many mature trees that add a lot of shade,” Boyd said. “Trees help mitigate some of the moisture loss on campus. They also help mitigate some of that solar reflection that you get from parking lots on campus. It just provides a great place to recreate and help support the mental health of students, faculty and staff.” 

The CTC grant is just one way UNC’s ongoing tree planting efforts are being funded. Individuals interested in donating to these efforts can visit the Give to UNC website, choose “other” on the drop down menu for the designation of donation and type in “campus trees.” Checks can also be mailed to: UNC Foundation, Campus Box 20, Greeley, CO 80639. 

Check out the video below created by Bear News student-journalists Alani Casiano and Emily Gutierrez to learn more about the silver maple, the efforts to preserve it and the tree planting events in its honor:

– written by Alani Casiano '23

About the Colorado Tree Coalition:

The Colorado Tree Coalition (CTC) is a non-profit whose mission is to preserve, renew and enhance community forests statewide. The CTC awarded $44,315 in grants to 17 organizations in 2022. These grant projects allowed recipients to plant and manage trees in community forests across Colorado. Grants are made possible through the Colorado State Forest Service, the Xcel Energy Foundation, Colorado Public Radio and our CTC members and supporters. Since 1991, the CTC has awarded grants to 225 communities and organizations totaling more than $1,125,000. These grants have been matched with more than $8 million in community money and in-kind services.  

This grant is part of the CSFS Your Ash is on the Line project which assists front range communities with an integrated response to the loss of ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).