Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced a new partnership Thursday to replace hundreds of city trees that went down in hurricane force winds earlier this month.
The “ReTree SLC” initiative will raise money for the effort and Tree Utah is recruiting volunteers to help replant the city’s urban forest. Rocky Mountain Power is providing $10,000 to aid in the effort, which the city hopes to match with donations from residents. The initiative is in addition to Mendenhall’s long-standing pledge to plant 1,000 trees on Salt Lake City’s west side.
“We estimate that more than 1,500 trees were lost in our public spaces alone. That doesn’t include the thousands of trees that were toppled on private property,” Mendenhall said at a news conference.
The mayor and city urban forestry director Tony Gliot ran through more damage numbers. Liberty Park lost 69 trees and 255 went down at the City Cemetery, including dozens of 80-foot tall spruce. The west side saw more than 100 Modesto ash trees uprooted from park strips. About 4,000 tons of debris came from downed trees or broken branches. All told, about one out every 10 trees in the city had some kind of damage.
All that destruction came from a wind storm on Sept. 8 that ripped through the city’s urban forest with gusts reaching 99 miles per hour or more.
"As a certified tree lover, this has been difficult, especially since we know the benefits that trees and tree canopies provide residents for generations, including reducing air pollution, increasing walkability, conserving water, reducing erosion, creating shade and places to gather,” Mendenhall said. “Trees are indispensable, but fortunately they are not irreplaceable.”
Donations can be made at retreeslc.com and will be used to purchase trees for replanting. ReTree SLC is accepting single donations or ongoing monthly contributions. Donors can specify which public spaces their funds will help replant, including Liberty Park, the Salt Lake City Cemetery, Rosewood Park or the Jordan River Park and International Peace Gardens.
Those interested in volunteering can sign up for email alerts at treeutah.org/events. The volunteer labor is expected to save the city 33% in costs.
Ivory Homes has also committed to offering a donation, but the details are still being worked out.
“It must not be forgotten that [Salt Lake City’s] forest has always been and will always be a forest that was put here by people and for people," Gliot said. “For all of the destruction, our forest endures. We may still look to the many tens of thousands of city trees that withstood these winds and be inspired by their strength and comforted by their shade.”