Glenwood Springs bought 5,000 cottonwoods for beautification |

Glenwood Springs bought 5,000 cottonwoods for beautification

Frontier DiaryWilla SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and MuseumGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietySmall cottonwood trees are seen planted along Glenwood Springs streets in this 1889 photograph. In an attempt to beautify the city, the city purchased in 1888 thousands of cottonwood trees and planted them along the towns primary streets. By 1890, the trees had grown large enough to require trimming.

“Of course we do not forget the tree planting and irrigating which must rank as of first importance in the onward march of the town toward comfort and beauty.”- Ute Chief, Sept. 29, 1888 By 1888, the Ute Chief newspaper estimated that nearly 2,500 people lived in Glenwood Springs. As Glenwood Springs grew in size, sagebrush made way for buildings. Although buildings filled the landscape, landscaping itself was lacking. It was time to beautify the town.City Council could not force residents to plant trees; therefore, the responsibility of tree planting fell to the city itself. During the late summer of 1888, the board of trade circulated a petition urging the city to spend $20,000 to provide irrigation ditches along Glenwood Springs’ streets. With the Glenwood Light and Water Co. agreeing to furnish irrigation water at no cost for a period of two years, tree planting along Glenwood’s primary streets could begin.An investigation was launched as to what type of tree should be planted. City Council members visited a number of towns, and settled upon the purchase of cottonwood trees. The Ute Chief newspaper was not impressed, writing, “It is little remarkable that some other variety of shade tree has not been found that would equal the cottonwood for beauty, shade, hardiness and rapid growing qualities, and which would be free from the eternal and annoying avalanches of flying cotton that gets into houses, creeps up pants legs and covers the clothing of the populace.”The Ute Chief’s criticisms went unheeded. The city solicited bids from a number of nurseries, both local and across the state. A local man, Harry Parcells, won the contract to supply 5,000 cottonwood trees, four inches in diameter. Parcells obtained the trees from the Arkansas River and its tributaries. While the tree planting plan was in place, funding for the project was not. Glenwood Springs residents had not approved a measure to spend $5,000 of the taxpayers’ money to purchase and plant the trees. With it being late October 1888, there was no time to put the measure on a ballot. Instead, petitions to pass a bond were placed in businesses. When not enough signatures had been gathered, city employees circulated the petitions door-to-door. The bond was passed in November 1888.Some of the trees arrived and were immediately planted. However, people began to use the young trees as hitching posts. This forced the passage by the city of the Ordinance for the Protection of Trees. Any offender would be fined from $5 to $50 if a person hitched or fastened any horse or other animal to a shade tree or ornamental tree or shrub, or to a fence or railing protecting the tree. The fine also applied if the tree was “cut, marred or destroyed.”Tree planting resumed in April 1889, with trees placed on both sides of Grand Avenue from 10th to 12th streets. By November 1890, Glenwood Springs’ 2,706 trees had matured enough to require trimming.Glenwood Springs was beautified. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.

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