Go and Do: Celebrate all things tree at Coffman Ranch Arbor Day celebration near Carbondale

Aspen Valley Land Trust philanthropy director Jeff Davlyn and Coffman Ranch manager Brian Hightower work together to find a good spot for one of the two apple trees that will be planted at Saturday's Arbor Day celebration at Coffman Ranch.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The history of Arbor Day dates back to the late 1800s in the barren, flat landscape that was then Nebraska territory. As pioneers seeking land began moving west and settling in the Great Plains they quickly realized something important was missing­ – trees.

Nebraska newspaper editor and avid tree lover J. Sterling Morton brought forth the idea that there should be a day dedicated to planting trees. The original celebration was set for April 10, 1872, and three years later Arbor Day was officially a legal state holiday.

National Arbor Day is now celebrated annually in all 50 states on the last Friday of April.

Aspen Valley Land Trust is partnering with Wilderness Workshop to celebrate 55 years of conservation and stewardships on Arbor Day this Saturday at the recently purchased Coffman Ranch in Carbondale.

“One of the big traditions when we (Aspen Valley Land Trust) were founded was an Arbor Day tree planting celebration in downtown Aspen,” AVLT Communications and Engagement Director Carly Bolliger said. “This is kind of an ode to that.”

The free event will invite guests to help plant two apple trees and a ponderosa pine as part of the first step in the Coffman Ranch restoration project.

“We are trying to honor and recognize the importance of local plants and trees and the relationship they have to this community and region,” said Brian Hightower Coffman Ranch manager. “We are planting two types of trees that have very different purposes, but both have a lot of important history here in Carbondale.”

The Aspen Valley Land Trust is working to preserve this 350- to 400-year-old ponderosa pine tree on the Coffman Ranch near Carbondale.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The ponderosa pines located on the western edge of the Coffman Ranch property date back several hundred years. A few even survived a fire in 2008 that swept along the valley floor just outside of Carbondale along the Roaring Fork River.

AVLT acquired the 141-acre ranch in August 2021 from longtime ranchers Rex and Jo Coffman with the vision of making it an outdoor education location for local schools and nonprofits while protecting and enhancing riparian and wetland habitat and maintaining a historic working cattle ranch.

Rex and Jo Coffman stand for a portrait on the ranch they have lived and worked on since 1958.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We are hoping to take this opportunity to talk about the purchase of the land and update folks on where we are at and what is going on as we keep working towards creating a healthier and safer community space that we can eventually open up to the public,” Bolliger said.

AVLT is working with an arborist to develop the master plan and vision for Coffman Ranch with the hopes of establishing an orchard as well as regenerating the ponderosa grove.

“Part of that will hopefully be some type of orchard; we would love to have some fruits that would grow well here,” Bolliger said.


Outside of helping plant trees, guests will be able to take part in a number of Arbor Day stewardship projects and activities at the ranch.

“Guests will learn how to measure a ponderosa just by looking at it and figure out how old it is,” Bolliger said. “They will also learn about different cottonwood stands and different types of soil and what is best for something like a working ranch.”


Where: Coffman Ranch 1837 County Road 100, Carbondale

When: Saturday, April 30, 10 a.m. to noon

Where to register:

How much: Free

Those attending are asked to either carpool or preferably bike to the ranch by taking the Rio Grande bike path, as parking is limited.

“Spring is an exciting time and especially this year because everybody is kind of revved up and ready to get together with one another again,” Bolliger said. “This is just our kick off for both Wilderness Workshop and AVLT as we both have pretty full event calendars for 2022.”

The event is open to the public but guests are asked to register beforehand at

Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or

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