The city of Wheat Ridge recently won a grant of $669,073 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wheat Ridge is one of 400 communities that received funds from a $1 billion dollar Urban and Community Forestry grant.
The money comes from the 2021 Executive Order 13990 “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” This specific grant focuses on communities with low canopy issues.
“We requested funding for about 1,000 new trees planted in public spaces in the city,” said Wheat Ridge Parks and Recreation Grant and Special Project Administrator Brandon Altenburg. “The funding will be available to the city between 2024 and 2028.”
A thousand trees seems to be a big ask, but Altenburg broke down just how the trees and the grant funds would be allocated.
Altenburg said that of those 1,000 trees, about 500 will be planted in project sites including:
- The Wadsworth project
- The 38th Street project
- Ward Station project
- A multi-use trail connection between 36 and 32nd
Altenburg said that 40 additional trees will be planted at Crown Hill Park in partnership with Wheat Ridge Open Spaces division of parks and recreation. Another 32 trees are planned for Foothills Regional Housing apartment locations.
“Then the other 500 will be in Wheat Ridge right of ways, parks and the Greenbelt (between Young Street and Harlan Street),” Altenburg said. He said that some trees will also be planted along the eastern side of the city, along I-70.
According to Altenburg, the goal is to increase tree cover in all of Wheat Ridge during the five-year grant period.
The Wheat Ridge Parks and Rec grant also includes room for managing the trees. This includes funding for a full-time natural resources specialist and also two seasonal forestry staff members who will work 16 weeks a year for the five-year grant period. There are also funds for 10 weeks of support from the Mile High Youth Corps.
Other allocations include supplies to maintain the trees for three years and software to help monitor the health of the trees.
Altenburg said the grant will help increase the Wheat Ridge canopy by 12.5%.
He added that the benefits of the expanded canopy include “improving air quality, decreasing temperatures and improving shade.”
The city will match the grant at 1:1 or dollar for dollar. Much of these funds are already embedded in the project budgets like the one for the Wadsworth project.
Altenburg said parks and rec hopes to get started in March with ordering supplies, hiring the new employees and incorporating the new software. Planting is expected to begin in May or June. For more information on the Urban and Community Forestry Grant, visit the USDA webpage for the grants and 2023 awards.