LARAMIE – With the Grand Ave. resurfacing project well-underway by the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation, the main concern of many residents is that many of the older trees have been removed, and they wonder if they will be replaced.

WYDOT started the Grand Avenue repaving project about 6 weeks ago. From 3rd Street to 15th Street, the project includes repaving, curbs and gutters will be repaired, several traffic signals will be replaced, and all sidewalk intersections will be made ADA compliant. Under the surface is the City of Laramie’s responsibility, and upgrading water and sewer infrastructure is taking place before WYDOT completes the resurfacing in August.

City Arborist Randy Overstreet said he and his staff have several tree plantings scheduled for the summer. They have planted around 100 bare root trees in gravel beds that will be planted at the Boulder Drive median, Bill Nye Ave. medians and Vista Drive projects later this fall. The tree varieties are honey locust, hackberry, and hot wings maple, native trees conducive to Laramie weather conditions.

“We put bare root trees in the gravel bed over the summer because they develop a very fibrous root system, which is what we need in Laramie. A good enough root system to pick up all the water, what little water we get,” said Overstreet.

Acknowledging that many of the old trees being removed on Grand were not conducive to the construction of new curb and gutter, as well as infiltrating sewer lines, due to huge root systems that have cracked sidewalks and the street, as well as dropping dried up, dead branches, the tree replacement is in the hands of WYDOT.

“It’s a WYDOT right of way, and I don’t know if they have funding to replace trees. The right of way landscaped area is very narrow, so we cannot take large trees, it’s just too narrow to support large trees, like cottonwoods. There are some other trees that are shade-type trees, but they don’t grow as big a trunk as cottonwoods. Maybe they’ll use those to develop a shaded area on Grand Ave. WYDOT typically doesn’t maintain the trees. Usually, it’s the property owner that has to maintain the right of way area,” Overstreet said.

Mayor Joe Shumway said the project is on schedule, and that WYDOT will replace a few trees

Matt Murphy, the public relations representative with WYDOT, said the department really has no set in stone policy regarding the replacement of trees in the state right of way.

“Once the project is complete, landowners along the Grand Avenue corridor can certainly plant trees back in the median if they want. We would suggest they go through the city, and keeping trees that would be good for ‘streetscaping,’ and would grow well right up against the street, like on Grand Ave.,” he said.

“For this project, we worked with the city arborist to determine which trees needed to be removed. Some of those trees were identified just based on age. They’re kind of nearing the end of their life, they could become a hazard if they start to die and drop branches,” Murphy said.

“The other trees, there are a few that we are moving that affect the curb and the work we need to do. If you drive on Grand Ave. now, some of the trees that are there, you can see where the roots have lifted up the curb a bit. In order to repair that curb, doing so would damage the tree in a way that it would die. So those are the only trees that we are removing – we have about 21 trees that we have identified. So it’s not all the trees on that corridor, just some of them that we went through with the city arborist and picked out.”

Murphy said the choice of trees to replace those being removed is really up to the property owner.

“There are trees that when they are planted and grow, their roots won’t interfere as much with the street surface or the utilities underneath. There are trees with different aspects of how they grow that would do a lot better in that environment and be longer lasting than other species.”

That’s where Rooted in Laramie comes in – a new organization that is comprised of a group of citizens with a mission to build up Laramie’s community forest.

Hilery Lindmier is a co-founder and chair of Rooted in Laramie. She said RiL got underway in January of this year

“I live in the ‘old tree’ area of Laramie, south of the UW campus, and I’ve been watching the cottonwoods getting taken down. A lot of it is necessary because they are aging out. You don’t see the trees replanted. When you look at old pictures of Laramie, it’s startling how stark it is, and how exposed the city is. If we don’t replant, we could go back to that eventually,” said Lindmier.

Education is an important aspect of Rooted in Laramie, and they are looking forward to helping property owners on Grand Ave. and throughout the city to discover the many varieties of trees beyond cottonwoods and Poplars that can survive Laramie’s harsh climate, and also help them learn how to help all of their trees thrive, even those that have been around for decades.

You can learn more about Rooted in Laramie by visiting their Facebook Page; get a tree application and details about the upcoming fall sale by emailing RootedInLaramie@gmail.com or contact Randy Overstreet, City of Laramie Arborist, by email ROverstreet@cityoflaramie.org or 307-721-5338.