It was a decidedly dusty, barren and definitely treeless part of the country, close by towering mountains, when Gen. William Jackson Palmer arrived out west, driving a stake for the city of Colorado Springs on July 31, 1871.

Palmer made plans to bring the railroad here, and as Irving Howbert wrote in the Colorado Springs Telegraph in 1921, “He bought this worthless tract of land and upon it he laid out a town with broad avenues and ample streets.”

And trees.

Palmer had 600 cottonwood trees planted in town and at least one of every tree native to this area planted in Monument Valley Park.

Following his legacy, the city’s forestry division has issued a COS 150 challenge to residents to help add 18,071 more trees by the 150-year celebration in July 2021. Residents with new trees can join the almost 1,000 others so far on the tree tracker, sharing tree photos on social media with#COS150.

The city forestry division manages more than 220,000 urban street trees and 20,000 trees in parks. During 2020 Arbor Day, 18 trees replaced older trees that had been removed in Monument Valley Park. They included linden, maple, bald cypress and oak. Twenty Chinkapin oak trees were planted for shade in Memorial Park.

Trees were planted in medians in one of the city’s original areas, the Old North End neighborhood, to replace dying trees that had been removed over several years. Replacement trees will be planted in parks across the city when possible.

Donations for more trees in parks can be made to “COS150 Tree Challenge Fund” and mailed to 1401 Recreation Way, Colorado Springs 80905

To be a part of the residents’ tree challenge or to add a tree to tracker map:

For planting hints and information about perfect-for-the-area trees from Colorado State University Extension: Recommended trees include blue spruce, ponderosa pine, maple and walnut, among many more.

Learn about trees to avoid planting, including a bit of a Colorado surprise, the aspen (Populus tremuloides). Others are Austree; silver maple; Russian olive and tamarisk, both invasive; Tree-of-Heaven, White-Barked Birches, non-native hybrid poplars/cottonwoods and Siberian elm.

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