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Branching Out: Rooted in (her)story

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How do we sink roots in a new place? 

I came to Carbondale before the “Best Places to Live” lists. Mad about fly fishing, hunting for a place “to grow up” and sink my own roots, our watershed drew me in.

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Volunteering is a win-win, so I jumped in with the Carbondale Tree Board. New, slightly intimidated, but eager to learn, hungry to make a difference, I kept my mouth shut and my ears open. I wanted some skin in the game!

The clouds broke open and angels came out strumming when resident Kay Brunnier approached the Tree Board to start a tree fund for planting commemorative trees and diversifying our community forest. Delving into science, policy, outreach, branding — even human nature — proved so gratifying, a handful of us were inaugural tree sponsors.

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I opted to plant a mighty oak at a park across the street, a place I envisioned the child growing within me would one day play. Through the bur oak, I chose to celebrate her and what she would bring into being through her life: enduring, stalwart resiliency. The Kay Brunnier Community Tree Fund plaque that hung on her tree read, “To the green growing edge of becoming.”

The stories behind other Brunnier trees still live with me. Bill, our board chair, sponsored a Japanese tree lilac for his mom, planted by the Sopris Park gazebo. She loved blooms and live performances. He then sponsored three more to celebrate fostering and rehoming Harry, a challenging Aussie/border collie mix that took root in his heart. Bill passed shortly after — and those trees? Still standing. Staci planted a blizzard of Spring Snow crab apples at the Third Street Center for her 50th birthday. Another sponsored a tree for her husband whose plane crashed; he never made it home. I sponsored yet another bur oak by the first, framing the park’s entry. My daughter’s father chose the quote this second time around; “Daddy bought this tree because Mommy made him!”

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Well, with energy like that, I made arrangements with the town’s landscape manager, David Coone, for replacement when it soon died! Such is life! Coone and I chose a chinkapin oak to thrive in the turfgrass culture of Miner’s Park. Less than a block away, we walked and biked through it several times a day. At five years old, Juniper understood the significance of replacement. She stopped often to hug or kiss “her” tree, reading the revised plaque: “In celebration of Juniper Maya.”

I was dismayed last summer when our remaining ten-year-old bur oak inexplicably kicked the bucket at Nuche, too. It had survived without irrigation for seven years; what happened? Discussing it with Town Arborist Mike Callas, I learn of mixed good news: the Kay Brunnier Community Tree Fund has actually maxed out Carbondale’s planting sites.

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“Kay, myself, and the Tree Board decided to hold off on the tree fund because we’re running out of room to plant. Many of the ‘open’ spots around town contain vast utility corridors beneath that have gas, electric, fiber optic, water, sewer and cable lines anywhere from 18 inches to six feet below the surface,” Callas explained. “Park lands have been planted to the max without intruding on multi-use play fields. Other areas simply don’t have irrigation, which is one of the main requirements for utilizing Kay Brunnier funds.”

As a certified arborist, Callas has stewarded and monitored the Brunnier trees all across Carbondale. He knows the species, health and location of each tree; he knows which need replacement. Callas secured funding to do just that.

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“The $6,000 grant was awarded from the Colorado Tree Coalition with funding from the Xcel Energy Community Foundation Grant,” he continued. “Every year, three municipalities are selected from Xcel’s service areas to receive grants of $4,000 to $6,000.”

Ever agile, Callas replaced not 15, as budgeted, but 21 trees by autumn 2020; 14 of them were Brunnier trees.

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The demise of the Nuche Park Brunnier trees was a lack of irrigation. Plans had been discussed for investing in irrigation over 10 years ago. We on the Tree Board chose to plant there with irrigation water soon to come, but town priorities changed. With that reality, the tree fund then required proposed sites to be irrigated.

Knowing this now, I look forward to irrigation at Nuche Park so we can replant Juniper’s first bur oak. We pulled the plaque last autumn; it looked forlorn, hanging on a dead tree. It sits in a drawer at my bedside, ready for the future. Patience and planning are foundational to the success of our trees — and our own roots, too.

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Tags: #Branching Out #Carbondale Tree Board #Kay Brunnier Tree Fund #trees
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