Study puts high dollar amount on Hayden’s canopy

One towering willow is worth more than some new cars

Four trees in Hayden's Joyce Cless Memorial Park are collectively worth nearly $90,000, according to a recent study performed by a certified arborist with the Colorado State Forest Service.
Town of Hayden/Courtesy photo

One towering willow tree in Hayden’s Town Park is worth nearly $44,000.

Four trees, two willows and two cottonwoods, shading Joyce Cless Memorial Park in the center of town are valued collectively at nearly $90,000.

Across the town — which has been designated a Tree City, USA, for 17 years — 239 trees are valued at nearly $750,000, according to a study of trees in town parks and right of ways conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service.

Kamie Long, a certified arborist with the Colorado State Forest Service, was behind the study. She said that just as towns track the value of physical assets, it is important to see the value of more passive aspects of the community as well.

“We always think of how much it costs to build a bathroom or keep a bathroom up to date in the parks,” Long said. “But your trees have value too. They are a part of the infrastructure here, and it’s good to be reminded that they do need to be a line item and part of your planning process.”

Residents showed how they value trees in the heart of Hayden last year when five 73-year-old trees along the town’s main drag were cut down as part of demolition of the former Hayden Middle School. Those trees were on Hayden School District land, and the town was not involved in the decision to cut them down.

Part of the reasoning behind cutting down those hardwoods was because they posed a potential hazard if they fell. Assessing the danger trees along West Jefferson Avenue might pose was the initial impetuous for the study, but Long saw an opportunity to more comprehensively study the town’s canopy.

A tree’s value is largely based on the diameter, health and species of tree, and is derived from a formula created by the International Society of Arboriculture.

With help from a grant from the Colorado Tree Coalition, Long compiled a complete inventory of 239 trees and two potential tree planting locations. Any tree more than 20 inches in diameter or that had an obvious defect was additionally reviewed for risk.

“Your No. 1 tree was that big, big, big willow in Town Park on the other side of the canal that runs through there,” Long said. “It was also one of the scariest ones to inventory for risk.”

Willows and Colorado Blue Spruce are the two most common tree species in Hayden.
Colorado State Forest Service/Courtesy image

Long said that willow isn’t in the greatest condition, but its 72-inch diameter is what gives it a value near $44,000. Long actually recommended the town remove that tree, mainly because of the risks it could pose if it fell.

“But it’s our MVP,” said Hayden Mayor Ryan Banks.

“That was just my opinion because I don’t have any emotional attachment to the tree,” Long said. “I recommend enjoying the tree, but not sitting under the tree.”

Willow and Colorado Blue Spruce were the most popular species in Hayden, each making up 19% of the town’s timber. About 15% of trees are crabapple, 12% aspen and 9% lanceleaf cottonwoods.

One recommendation for the town was to look for ways to increase species diversity. Ideally, no species would represent more than 5% of all trees, Long said. This can be key when a certain species has a particular vulnerability. An example of this would be Dutch elm disease, which kills American elm trees, or the emerald ash borer, an insect that only targets ash trees.

“If you have a smorgasbord of plants out there, then that insect coming in can’t eat the whole buffet because there are so many different types,” Long said.

Long recommended the town create a management plan for its trees, especially because there are so many large trees. This includes planting younger trees now to replace older trees that will eventually need to be dropped.

Another recommendation was to improve planting standards, as some trees are struggling because they were poorly planted. The most common error was planting the tree too deep.

“Those roots cannot breathe, so they’re crisscrossing trying to get to the surface and they cut off the flow of nutrients,” long said, likening an improperly planted tree to a telephone pole. “When you think about how a kid draws a tree, they always draw a flair, they don’t draw telephone poles.”

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