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!

Utah Fruit Season

I’d love to see a new form of social security … everyone taught how to grow their own; fruit and nut trees planted along every street, parks planted out to edibles, every high rise with a roof garden, every school with at least one fruit tree for every kid enrolled. – Jackie French

Utah can be a challenging climate for some eager fruit tree gardeners to have success but choosing the right plants can make a huge difference in your local harvest. Most of our Utah climate is perfect for apricots, peaches, apples, cherries, and many other fruits. With a little know how you can enjoy fruit trees in your own yard.

One way to know what plants grow well is to buy locally. Nurseries typically only sell trees that will survive in their local climates.

Fruit trees are more challenging to grow than vegetable plants in Utah, mainly because of their initial special care and the length of time before they begin to produce. Fruit trees require the appropriate balance of water, food, sun and ventilation to grow healthy and build resistance against diseases and pests. Careful clean up of debris around trees and proper pruning will help prevent diseases. Treating them with good care early will help you prevent larger problems later.

The planting area should have at least a half a day of sun and be protected from the wind. The soil should have reasonable drainage. If you have animals, young children, or wild deer nearby, young trees need to be protected with cages, or fences. Deer and other animals love to nibble on the bark and the tender leaves.

If you have a small area for fruit trees, you may want to consider trees that have more than one variety grafted on to the same tree. There are apple trees that grow several types of apples. Some pit trees can grow peaches and apricots. Remember, some varieties need pollination, which may require planting two different varieties of trees. Talking with someone at your local nursery will help you choose the varieties that will best meet your needs.

Join TreeUtah Hiking!

TreeUtah is all about getting outside and getting into nature, join TU on one of our nature hikes and learn how to identify trees in Utah. Be sure to get information on our events page and pre-register! You can read about some of the many benefits of hiking below!

1. Hiking Makes You Happy

It can: “Improve your mood, decrease your anxiety and even improve your memory.” According to this 2014 Stanford University study, quoted in the LA Times.

2. Hiking Can Ward Off Depression

new study, also mentioned by the LA Times, says: “A 90 minute stroll in a natural environment can lead to measurable benefits for the brain, and may help combat depression.”

Though you need to hike while immersed in nature, as the scientists did not find the same benefits when hikers walked by a busy road with lots of traffic.

3. Hiking Makes You Less Stressed

This 2014 study, quoted in Outside, also found that going for a long walk combatted depression, while also helping people “mitigate the negative effects of stressful life events and perceived stress.”

4. It Helps You Solve Problems

“Spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent.” According to a 2012 study, cited by the Huffington Post.

5. It Boosts Memory

“After just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20%,” according to this 2008 University of Michigan study, cited in this Guardian piece.

6. It Helps You Think More Creatively

Scientists in 2014 showed that walking rather than sitting was key for new idea generation.

7. Hiking Gets You Fit

Especially if you hike briskly, making it a great low impact cardio activity. For those that care about calories, hiking will help you burn around 500 calories an hour.

Relationship Between Urban Tree Cover Density and Self-Reported Stress Recovery

A study, published in Environment and Behavior, was based on self-reported questionnaires, an earlier 2016 study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, measured reduced physiological markers of stress in subjects simply looking at images of nature.

These findings suggest that viewing tree canopy in communities can significantly aid stress recovery and that every tree matters.

In an increasingly stressful world we need more trees and closeness to nature in our lives. Nature encourages social connection as well and exposure to nature has been proven to be key factor in maintaining good physical, social and mental health. The calming effects of the natural environment are particularly beneficial for easing stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression.

“The findings suggest that keeping a few snapshots of greenery around your work desk might not be a bad idea. When participants viewed the natural images in the experiment, their stress levels lowered, thanks to the activation of their parasympathetic nervous system – which controls certain rest functions,” Science Alert reports.

“High levels of parasympathetic activity have been associated with numerous benefits including more adaptive emotion regulation strategies and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease,” the researchers write.

TreeUtah is dedicated to keeping our communities filled with trees to promote healthy minds and living. We encourage everyone to look for ways to support more urban tree growth and to take time each day to connect with nature, especially when stress enters our lives.