Carbondale's community connector

Fund, board and arborist prove Town can see urban forest for the trees

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This year, Carbondale is expected to hit a pair of mile-markers related to its urban forest: 25 years as a Tree City USA and 10 years of the Kay Brunnier Tree Fund.

“It’s a real landmark,” said Tree Board Chair Dan Bullock. “It’s absolutely amazing that Carbondale is so committed to trees.”

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It’s unusual for such a small town to have a board dedicated to the topic, much less a full-time arborist like Mike Callas, Bullock noted.

He estimated that around 250 trees have been planted in parks and public right-of-way over the last quarter century, of which 88 were donated through the tree fund.

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Kay Brunnier herself was actually inspired to start the program when her partner, Dr. Will Evans, gave the city $100 to plant a Burr oak in Sopris Park as a birthday present for her.

“I thought that was just a great idea,” she said. “There’s something powerful about planting a tree. It’s giving new life for generations. It’s the expression of elements that I have a connection to — plant, water, soil and sun.”

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So she set up a program to cover half the cost of new trees — mostly for memorial purposes but also any other way someone might want to honor someone.

“It’s all ways of celebrating life,” Brunnier said. “I think there’s a basic human need to give back life in some form. There’s a plaque on each that’s made to grow with the tree.”

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The Tree Board sets the requirements and selects the recipients, the Town digs the hole — which must have access to municipal irrigation — and the family fills it in.

“It’s a powerful triad that comes together that’s enabled this to happen,” Brunnier said. “On Arbor Day, I try to go to the plantings and meet the people and they’re always so gracious and grateful.”

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Carbondale’s Arbor Day is slated for May 4 this year, a bit later than the national celebration due to the unpredictable Colorado weather.

The Town is hoping to plant the fund’s hundredth tree this year — anyone interested can contact Callas at 510-1331 by April 19.

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Brunnier sees it as just a continuation of a long

“The early settlers brought trees with them,” she said. “There’s a lot of old trees that are leaving. There’s a generosity of heart thinking of the generations to come.”

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“Everybody knows we’re out of balance, so this is helping to bring it back,” she added.