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Monday, September 12, 2022

Roots of Success: Westminster High School Students Plant Trees to Promote Health and Equity

Roots of Success: Westminster High School Students Plant Trees to Promote Health and Equity

 

Little Dry Creek Trail near 72nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard will have more shade and beauty in the coming years, thanks to a group of Westminster High School students who planted 50 trees along the path.

The added foliage is a result of a partnership between the City of Westminster and the Trio Upward Bound program, which prepares students from limited-income backgrounds at Westminster High School for college and career.

“We want to improve the look of the area, and these students attend the high school nearby, so this is a great location for them to have a large impact by planting some small trees,” said City Forester Bryan McCoy. McCoy says the Little Dry Creek corridor was an ideal place for this project due to the gap in canopy cover in the area.

After watching a demonstration from City staff, the students separated into groups and planted a total of 50 trees along the bank of Little Dry Creek, including 10 lanceleaf cottonwoods, and 40 chokecherry trees.

“Lanceleaf cottonwoods [are] native to Colorado so they’ll grow quite large like these other ones around here,” McCoy said. “We’ve also got 40 chokecherry trees, and those are flowering trees with really pretty flowers, maroon-colored foliage, and a sweet smell, so that’ll be a nice improvement to the area when you’re coming through here.”

Besides improving the aesthetics of a local park, the students also planted the trees as a way to promote canopy equity, which ensures everyone in the community is able to experience the mental and physical benefits of trees by improving air quality and lowering surface temperatures.

The tree planting event was just one part of a bigger lesson the students have been learning.

“The students this summer have been studying equity in their neighborhoods in all kinds of ways,” said Diana Maggiore, Math and STEAM Instructor for the TRIO Upward Bound Program. “They’ve been researching statistics including things like crime, housing, and this project is about tree canopy equity.”

Mariana Patino, a rising junior at Westminster High School, said she has enjoyed being able to find tangible ways to put statistical analysis and research skills to use.

“We recently learned by looking at statistics in Colorado,” she said. “We’re trying to apply math to real-world causes, especially in our community."

This tree planting project is one of many programs the City has implemented in recent years to add more trees to Westminster with the goal of diversifying and protecting the urban canopy.

Once the newly planted trees mature, Little Dry Creek Trail users will have more shade, colorful foliage, and a natural barrier between the path and the industrial businesses on the other side of the creek. The cottonwoods will eventually grow roots deep enough to draw water from the creek and become more resistant to shock from flooding and temperature swings.

“There are so many wins here,” said Tomás Herrera-Mishler, Westminster’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Libraries. “The young people are winning because they have this opportunity to make their neighborhood better. They’re learning about the environment. They’re learning about all kinds of career opportunities, talking to our foresters and arborists … There’s a lot of rich learning going on here, but it’s all in the context of making their world a better place.”

Academic Counselor Dr. Marisol Enriquez said partnership between the City and TRIO Upward Bound was key for the tree planting project to take shape.

“I think it’s essential that we work together and pool our resources to improve our communities,” she said. “It would’ve been much harder for the program to plant this many trees in the community without the partnership of the City of Westminster, so we really appreciate the partnership and the willingness of the staff to demonstrate, model, talk about their jobs and how they’re making a difference. A big part of our program is identifying what college or career path might be the right one for them, so the more they interact with professionals in the field the more they see what’s possible.”

The cottonwood and chokecherry trees planted by the TRIO Upward Bound students can be seen along Little Dry Creek near 72nd and Lowell, west of the Little Dry Creek Dog Park (3655 W 69th Place).

To learn more about how the City is working to protect our urban canopy, and the forestry programs that are available to residents, please visit:  https://www.cityofwestminster.us/ParksRecreation/Parks,TrailsOpenSpace/Forestry.

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