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Tree Planting

Waldo Canyon Burn Area

​​On October 19, 2013, 54 UHLers volunteered to plant trees at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs. It was a beautiful fall morning and the perfect weather to spend a day outdoors. After eating a delicious breakfast of donuts and juice, the UHLers got on a fancy tour bus and drove down to Colorado Springs. 

After the typical safety talk from the Coalition of the Upper South Platte (CUSP), the students picked up their hard hats and divided into two groups: the tree planters and the rakers. 

The tree planter group was in charge of transplanting and replanting trees. They hiked down to "the nursery" and dug out the trees, taking extra care not to expose the roots. There were two types of trees: Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir. The students took turns shoveling out the roots and sticking the trees into pots. Then they loaded them onto a truck and hiked back up the hill. 
Tree planting group.jpg
The tree planting procedure consisted of choosing a dead tree, digging a hole northeast of the tree shadow, adding polymer, gently placing the tree into the hole, and packing soil around it. CUSP personnel also told students that naming the trees would help them grow better because they would be better loved. Some of the names included "Lesean" (Benjamin Johnk, 2017), "Voldemort" (Miriam Sarwana, Psychology, 2014), and "Watson" (Ashley Almirez, Biology, 2016). While tree planting, Omer Sarwana (Political Science, 2017) found an ordinary looking tree branch, and fashioned a walking stick which he used as a guidance tool. 

The other group of students, the rakers, had a different job. The raking job was slightly more tedious and strenuous than the tree planting, warned CUSP volunteers. After obtaining rakes, the students further divided in half. The first half hiked up the hillside and started raking to loosen the ground and clear the weeds. The second half soon followed; a CUSP volunteer had a bucket of mixed wild grass seeds which she sprinkled around on the hillside. The second group of rakers had to rake the seeds perpendicular to the slope of the hill as to protect against erosion. 
Tree planting 2.jpg

The students worked on their respective jobs until lunchtime. Everyone sat in a clearing to eat their lunches, being careful not to sit under a "widow-maker". A widow-maker is any large limb or broken tree branch that has been burned and can fall and hit someone at the slightest gust of wind.  ​After lunch, the UHLers switched jobs: the tree planters took up raking, and the rakers collected shovels to plant trees. Each group worked for several more hours raking the hillsides and planting trees. At the end of the day, the whole group had moved and replanted a total of 147 trees and raked over 4 acres of steep hillside. 

Most students said they enjoyed the tree planting more than the raking. Avneet Chauhan (Biology, 2017said her favorite part of the whole trip was learning how to properly plant trees because she would be able to help her parents with their gardening endeavors. The students had a great time bonding with each other, and working together to accomplish a goal. Tryke Roark (Recording Arts, 2016), who was in a group with Ashley Almirez, Simi Abraham (Biology, 2016), and Sarah Sarwana (Information Systems, 2017), mused, "One of my favorite parts was when one of my teammates tried to take my job as shoveler and utterly failed; thereby, establishing my dominance as official digger and shovel master." 
Tree planting lunch.jpg

Some students preferred the raking to the tree planting. Vikasini Mahalingam (Biology, 2017) said that she enjoyed the raking the most because "[she] got a lot of personal time with ground and it was touching." Aaron Blahut's (Engineering, 2017) favorite part was the bus ride because he was able to spend time with all of his friends.

By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted yet content that they had made somewhat of a difference in the world. 

                                                                              Reported by Sarah Sarwana

University Honors and Leadership Program

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