COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Two city departments appealed Monday to the City Council for more resources to properly manage more than 270,000 trees on public property.
The city's Forestry Division, and Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, presented the results of a consultant's report during a Council work session.
According to the report, Colorado Springs has as many or more trees than most cities of its size in the U.S. and in the West, but has a budget nearly five times less than it should.
The report reveals that the city has 11 full-time forestry employees and an annual budget of $1.6 million, but recommends having a staff of 27 and a yearly budget of $7.8 million.
Because of the lack of resources, the report finds, each employee oversees 24,454 trees instead of the recommended 10,000 trees. At that rate, it would take the staff 73 years to prune every tree, instead of the target goal of 7 years.
The report suggests that increasing funding for routine maintenance -- since much of that maintenance is delayed -- will save money by allowing the department to be more proactive and less reactive to tree-related matters.
Other findings in the report recommend that the city finish its inventory of trees; update tree policies; consider funding options and conduct an extensive public outreach campaign.
According to an estimate from a past survey, the city has 270,000 trees but may actually have more than 300,000.
The city's continued growth, as well as the effect of drought conditions on trees, are other factors to consider. One of the report's recommendations is to establish a separate management program for trees along streets and roads.
Dennis Will, the city's head forester, said the lack of resources means it will be more expensive to remove and replant trees that aren't pruned within their first seven years of growth.
"I'm encouraged by the council's response," he said. "The plan has several funding options and I know they need time to study them all."
Councilman Don Knight agreed.
"We aren't ready to decide this yet," he said. "We need to talk about this a lot more. Maybe we'll take a closer look at this."
Councilwoman Jill Gaebler said she'd like to see more help from volunteers.
"I think there are probably a lot of close- or post-retirement people who would love to be part of some program like that," she said. "So I think there are some opportunities."
One funding option -- not endorsed by City Forestry -- is to allow homeowners to pay for maintaining trees near their yards, if they so choose. However, there are questions about liability if a fallen tree hurts someone or damages property.
On a related note, City Forestry is leading an effort asking people to plant 18,071 trees by next July, to commemorate the city's founding in 1871. The trees can be planted in private yards or on approved city property. As of mid-summer this year, around 1,000 trees had been planted.