In 1988, Highlands Ranch became the first unincorporated community in the United States to be named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. For the next 31 years the community would receive the award that recognizes effective urban tree management.
That means for the Highlands Ranch Metro District — which maintains the community's parks and landscaping along public roads — Arbor Day is a big deal.
In Colorado the public tree-planting holiday is typically held on the third Friday of each month. However this year, the metro district has designated April 23 as Arbor Day.
“The metro district has always prided itself on being good environmental stewards in the community,” Kari Larese, the metro district's community relations coordinator, said. “Our annual Arbor Day planting is one of the many things we do in this endeavor.”
To be a Tree City USA, a city or community must have a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
Highlands Ranch has a suburban forest with more than 16,000 trees, according to the metro district. The metro district's forestry department has programs in place to maintain healthy trees and fight tree-related diseases, such as a tree and limb recycling, tree planting program and annual Arbor Day activities.
In past years, the metro district has worked with Scout troops and local schools to plant trees at community parks. This year, the metro district is partnering with Highlands Ranch High School's Sustainability Club to plant trees at Redstone Park, 3280 Redstone Park Circle. Students and metro district staff will meet at 3:30 p.m. on April 23 at the Lebsack Tennis Center.
Larese said the partnership is a natural fit. Comprising more than 60 students, the club works on eco-friendly projects throughout the year. Last fall, the club received a $10,000 grant from Centennial Water and Sanitation District to build a xeriscape garden, with drought-tolerant plants, at the school's front entrance.
Larese said about the upcoming Arbor Day project: “We are excited to work with young men and women who care about the environment and are taking action.”
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