Mulching Those Trees – Is a Yes Please!

Mulch is a newly planted tree’s best friend because it:

Insulates the soil, helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold.
Retains water to help the roots stay moist.
Keeps weeds out to avoid root competition.
Prevents soil compaction.
Reduces lawn mower damage.

Steps to Adding Mulch Around Your Tree
Remove any grass within a 3-foot area (up to 10 feet for larger tree).
Pour natural mulch such as wood chips or bark pieces 2 to 4 inches deep within the circle.
Keep the mulch from touching the trunk of the tree.

A Summer of Stewardship

September 19th, 2019 | By Adam Fehr

Building on Alta Ski Area’s heritage of conservation, the Alta Environmental Center (AEC) was created in 2008 to improve internal sustainability practices across departments; support research and collaboration with our external partners, and communicate progress with our skiers.

While summer is generally considered Alta Ski Area’s off-season, the AEC is in full swing—planning, coordinating, and organizing stewardship events. Working with summertime employees, partner organizations, Forest Service workers, and local volunteers, the AEC manages to build out an extensive stewardship events calendar. Here is a look back at all that went down this summer. 

The summer stewardship calendar recently concluded with the Alta Tree Planting Day, a one-of-a-kind experience deeply rooted in Alta history. Starting with reforestation efforts from the FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, trees have been planted at Alta every summer.

2019 Tree Planting Day by the numbers:

– 100 plus volunteers

– 1,000 Douglas fir saplings planted

– 300 Englemann spruce saplings planted

– 43,000 trees planted at Alta since 1994

– 80-plus years of reforestation efforts

Efforts have ramped up considerably in the past few decades as over 43,000 trees have been planted on Alta’s slopes since 1994. 

Tree Harvesting and Tree Planting events are truly amazing. Seeds are harvested each spring and taken to local nurseries to grow in a safe environment. The seedlings grow for multiple years before being returned to their mountain homes as saplings. The seedlings, harvested from the high alpine environment, are specially designed by nature to survive the harsh winter conditions found between 9,500 and 10,500 feet above sea level.

This September, 100 volunteers spent a beautiful Saturday morning planting 1,300  Englemann spruce and Douglas-fir saplings on the slopes of Alta. After a quick breakfast and welcoming from Alta GM Mike Maughan and Alta Environmental Center Director Maura Olivos, volunteers made their way to the Patsey Marley and Catherine’s Pass areas via the Sunnyside lift. Tools and saplings were handed out, volunteers spread out across the rugged mountain terrain, holes were dug, and 1,300 saplings were given a new mountain home.

The Alta Tree Planting Day is one of the highlights of the Alta summer stewardship calendar. A special thank you to TreeUtahFriends of AltaCottonwoods Canyon Foundation and all of the amazing volunteers that make this annual event a success. 

The following are some of the other highlights from the Alta Environmental Center summer stewardship events calendar… 

Clean-Up Days

Kicking off with the LCC Cleanup Day in June, the Town of Alta Restoration Day in July, and concluding with the Alta Ski Area Clean-Up in August, hundreds of volunteers pitched in this summer to help keep the Town of Alta and Alta Ski Area the beautiful place we call came for. Hundreds of bags of trash were removed from the roads, parking lots, base areas, mountain creeks and ski runs.

The annual Alta Ski Area Clean-Up Day is always a huge hit with the skiing community. Alta skiers returned to the slopes in the first weekend of August to pick up trash and hunt for lost treasures. Descending almost 2,000 vertical feet from the top of Collins lift, volunteers scoured ski runs picking up items accidentally discarded by fellow skiers during the busy ski season.

Monthly Volunteer Days

Following 626″ of seasonal snowfall, summer started a little later than usual. Some of the most memorable events were the Monthly Volunteer Days. Working with Alta Community EnrichmentCottonwood Canyons FoundationFriends of Alta, and TreeUtah, upwards of 25 volunteers spent their Tuesday nights pulling weeds, planting wildflowers, transplanting willows and just generally getting their hands dirty.

After a couple of hours of hard work, the volunteers and staff were rewarded with a fun community party in the Alta Town Park. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and learn more about the wonderful Alta community.

As we head into the quiet fall months, AEC stewardship events are winding down, but there will be plenty of great events this ski season. The Fresh Tracks Newsletter and Events Calendar are the best places to learn about Monthly Bird Surveys, the Tour With a Ranger program and more. Thanks again to all of the partner organizations, employees, and the hundreds of incredible volunteers that made this summer one of the best in recent memory. See you on the slopes this winter!

Winterize garden tools now before Spring

You may have a few less shovels and garden tools than TreeUtah has but taking simple, preventive steps now before winter hits can extend the life of your garden tools and when springtime arrives you’ll be able to easily have them ready and working for your projects and spring clean up! 

Use a wire brush or steel wool to remove any dried dirt to prevent the rusting process, If any of your tools already have accumulated rust, you can also use piece of sandpaper to scrape it away. If the tool has a metal blade like a shovel, spade or hoe, sharpen using a whetstone or file after cleaning. 

For tools with wooden handles, you can use wax or natural oil to prevent the wood from splitting during winter temps.Store the tools in a dry spot in the garage, away from any moisture sources. Hand trowels and other small tools can be placed in a bucket of sand soaked in oil to further deter rust, and hang rakes and shovels or prop upright. 

The Value of Student Volunteerism! Real life skills!

Volunteering is something that every person should experience and take part in at some point in their lives. There are countless reasons to volunteer with charitable organizations: giving back and helping others, meeting new people, learning new skills, getting out of one’s own comfort zone, and much more. Everyone stands to benefit from volunteerism, from the communities in which the volunteering is taking place, to the organizations involved, to the volunteers themselves. 

For university students and young adults, the benefits of volunteerism run even deeper. Volunteering gives college students the opportunity to develop real work skills and experience that can translate to employment opportunities in the future. Here at TreeUtah, students that choose to volunteer with us are given the opportunity to interact with and learn from people with a broad range of professional and social backgrounds, allowing them not only to garner successful communication skills that will help them in their professional lives, but also to network with others who share their common interests and long-term goals. This is especially valuable for students attending universities out of state or far from where they originally grew up, as it can allow them to integrate themselves into communities beyond their community on campus. 

Further, volunteering as a university student has been shown to correlate with academic success. Students who volunteer regularly are more likely than their classmates and peers to report that they are doing well academically, as volunteerism can broaden a student’s perspective and give them and educational experience that moves beyond the experience that can be gained from a structured classroom setting. When volunteering with TreeUtah, students can learn new skills regarding working and interacting with others, as well as valuable information on environmental sustainability and the positive impact of planting trees, all while getting outside and having fun with other great people with similar interests, choosing to give back to their communities one tree at a time.

Jack Jacob Volunteer Coordinator

Utah Hiking Trails

Here is a list of local hikes to enjoy this summertime. Go outside, take in the natural scenery, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

  • The Living Room 
    • A 2.5 mile hike with 900 ft of elevation gain to rock shaped furniture. This hike is public transport accessible.
  • Ensign Peak Hike
    • A 0.8 mile round trip, this quick short hike has a great view of the Salt Lake valley. 
  • Avenue Twin Peaks 
    • A 3.6 mile hike, this hike is great for a stroll or avid trail runners. It ends with a beautiful view of the valley. 
  • Donut Falls Trail
    • A 3 mile hike to the edge of a waterfall. This hike is especially fun during the summer because it includes some river crossing.
  • Bonneville Shoreline Trail
    • This trail can be as long or short as you’d like. It runs parallel to the entire Wasatch front. It is great for views of the mountains and the city. 
  • Lake Blanche Trail
    • This is a difficult, 6.9 mile there-and-back hike. With 2,700 ft of elevation gain, this hike is no easy feat; however, the views and waterfall at the end make it worth the trip.
  • Adams Canyon Trail
    • This is hike is a 3.4 mile out-and-back to a scenic waterfall. 
  • Mount Olympus Trail 
    • This 6.3 mile hike leads to a great view. It is amazing how quickly you can escape from the confines of the city. 
  • RattleSnake Gulch Trail
    • This moderate 3.3 mile trail is great in the summertime as it leads straight through wildflower patches. 
  • Lake Mary Trail
    • This 2.6 mile trail is moderate and a great way to experience the alpine ecosystem.
Zahra Saifee TU Intern

Native Trees of Utah

Although Utah is a desert, many trees found here are native to the land. Native trees are always the best option when considering what to plant because those trees are suited specifically for Utah’s climate. Some of the most common native trees around the Wasatch Front inlcude:

  • Big Tooth Maple
    • This tree is what gives the Wasatch Mountains the beautiful fall colors come October. Can withstand a variety of climates up in the mountains and also down in the valley.
  •  Box Elder
    • This tree is extremely common because it can withstand all types of temperatures, and also grows relatively fast. Box Elders can grow up to 50 ft, and provide shelter for insects and birds. 
  • Rocky Mountain Juniper 
    • This Coniferous tree can be found all over the Wasatch Front due to its drought resistance. This tree also can be used for visual screening, shade, and noise dampening.
  • Aspen
    • Probably the most recognizable tree here in Utah. This tree often has “eyes” on its white bark  that watch over the forest! An aspen forest is considered one organism because all of the roots of each aspen tree connect to one “mother tree”. These trees, however, are not a long lived species.  
  • Blue Spruce
    • The State tree of Utah. Due to its waxy coating of the needles, in certain angles the tree looks blue variations of color. At full maturity in the wild, the tree can grow up to 135 ft and 30 ft wide!

Eshan Narasipura TU intern  

Salt Lake Parks to Visit!

As summer kicks off, take advantage of the pleasant weather in the Salt Lake valley. One of the best ways to enjoy nature and relax is to take a trip to the local parks. Whether you have half a day or an hour in between work, it is nice to decompress. Here is a list of some local parks!

  • Liberty Park
    • A local favorite with plenty of shady trees. It has ponds, playgrounds and is home to the Tracy Aviary. On Friday nights, the park hosts a farmer’s market from 4 pm until dusk. 
  • International Peace Gardens
    • A beautiful botanical garden, the International Peace Gardens is a seamless medley of plants, architecture, and culture. 
  • Sugarhouse Park
    • Runners and walkers galore, this park is perfect for getting a workout it. It also has plenty of trees to rest under and small creek for cooling off.
  • Memory Grove Park
    • Tucked away in the hills by the capitol, is park is the place for a quiet getaway. It also serves a memorial for veterans. 
  • Pioneer Park
    • Close to downtown, this park has it all; playgrounds, grassy areas, shady spaces, and a great walking path. On Saturday mornings, the park hosts a farmer’s market from 8am-2pm.
  • Gilgal Sculpture Garden
    • Hidden in between concrete buildings, the Gilgal Sculpture Garden is filled with sculptures and inscribed stones. You’ll always find something new to look at!
  • Bend in the River
    • This park is perfect for bikers, it connects to the Jordan River Parkway trail.
  • Constitution Park
    • Tennis courts, soccer fields, and playgrounds, this park is perfect for outdoor activity.

Zahra Saifee TU Intern

The Fun of Volunteering with TreeUtah!

Our volunteers are the heartwood of TreeUtah’s ability to carry out our mission of improving the quality of life for people in communities throughout the Salt Lake Valley through tree plantings and environmental stewardship. But volunteering is not only an opportunity to get out and give back; it is also a fantastic way of community building and meeting others that share your and our passion for helping to improve the integrity of Utah’s environment.

The benefits of volunteering are numerous and long-lasting. Volunteering, getting outside and planting trees are proven ways of protecting your own mental and physical health by getting fresh air and physical activity, meeting and interacting with new people, and providing a sense of purpose by doing a service for your community. Volunteering provides the unique opportunity to meet people from all walks of life with similar interests and a shared sense of pride for giving back and helping others. At TreeUtah, you get to do all of this, all while improving the environment!

Jack Jacob TreeUtah Volunteer Coordinator

Dead Trees Matter!

A dead tree might seem useless to thriving forest, however, dead trees play an integral role in keeping that forest healthy and sustainable. A standing dead tree, also called a snag, ironically supports life in many ways. The primary importance of a dead tree is as it gets decomposed by fungi and bacteria, the dead wood gets its nutrients released back into the ground which helps future saplings grow and flourish. Other secondary uses for dead trees that help many aspects of the forest include:

  • Dead logs shelter for animals like snakes, squirrels, opossums, and other nesting mammals
  • Woodpeckers drill the snags as supply for food and as a nesting site.
    • Woodpeckers test each snag to see which wood is the softest, the softer the wood, the more likely a Woodpecker will be nesting there.
  • A dead tree provides birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and owls a perch to get a better view of prey on the ground without being obscured by leaves and branches. 

Dead trees may not have the beauty it once had, but the tree still provides an invaluable contribution to the overall health of a forest. Next time you see a dead tree, keep a lookout for creatures that may be calling it their home.

Eshan Narasipura

What Trees to Plant in Utah

One of TreeUtah’s most wanted information is “What trees to plant?” There are many trees to choose from at local Utah nurseries. But some tree species get planted too often, and some not often enough.  TreeUtah regularly researches what tree varieties are ideal for Utah’s urban places and updates this list.

The dominant plant communities found in much of Utah can be roughly correlated with elevation, as follows:

  • Subalpine and Alpine: 10,000 feet and higher
  • Upper Montane: 9,000-10,000 feet
  • Mid-Montane: 6,000-9,000 feet
  • Foothill: 4,800-6,000 feet
  • Valley: 4,200-4,800 feet

While elevation is a good climate predictor—lower elevations are generally hotter and drier, higher elevations are cooler and moister—other factors play a role in creating microclimates within the elevation zones.

It’s also always good to be aware of the effects of planting non-native and invasive plants to your area. Currently in Utah it is best not to plant White or Subalpine Firs, they are being decimated by an infestation of Balsam Wooly Adelgid (new since 2015).

There are so many good resources here and on the Utah Community Forestry Council and local city sites to help you find just the right trees to plant. We hope you will find what you are looking for and want to hear from you as to what will help you decide! Happy Planting!