A tree outside your window can do tangible good, and you don’t have to be a Thoreauvian,“back to nature” type to reap the benefits. There are heaps of studies devoted to urban forestry, and the advantages it provides—from the expected (better air quality, cooler temperatures, better stormwater management) to the secondary (better school performance, improved mental health).

The Park People is doing its part to get more trees in the ground throughout the Mile High City.  The nonprofit is currently running its Denver Digs Trees program to offer hundreds of low-cost and free trees to Denver residents, businesses, nonprofits, and schools. Applications are open now through March 1, and are first-come, first-serve.

The pandemic has “highlighted the importance of our outdoor spaces,” as a respite from our day-to-day drudgery, says Kim Yuan-Farrel, executive director of the Park People. Part of the project’s focus is to bring these benefits to “target” neighborhoods: low- to moderate-income neighborhoods with low tree canopy (meaning fewer trees in the area). For residents in target areas—which includes Athmar Park, Globeville, Baker, Sun Valley, Ruby Hill, Valverde, and West Colfax, among others—trees are just $10. They’re $35 for the rest of the city. Applicants needing financial assistance can also request a “Treeship” to receive free trees.

“It’s just so important that we’re planting in many of those low canopy neighborhoods because everybody deserves to have the benefits that trees provide,” says Yuan-Farrel. “Everything from shading and cooling our homes in mitigating the larger heat island effect, helping to filter air pollution, helping to manage stormwater, and just beautifying and bringing that sense of beauty.”

The program offers applicants seven varieties of tree—all urban-tolerant and deciduous—that will grow to different sizes and can do well in Denver. Applicants who are awarded trees will receive them in April, along with planting and care instructions. Planting assistance through the program is available to those with physical limitations.

Due to the pandemic, the program will forgo its event day festivities, where residents would usually pick up their trees in person, hang out, and interact with the team. A silver lining is that this year, trees will be delivered to residents, making it easier for anyone to participate. Another change for 2021: No street trees (those planted in the public right-of-way) will be available this year. Any trees that are awarded must be planted in front, back, or side yards.

“There’s something really wonderful about when residents come to the park sites. There’s so much awesome energy and camaraderie,” Yuan-Farrel says. “But, I do think that this year it’ll be really nice for people to just kind of be able to receive their trees.”

Interested? Applications can be submitted online or by mail. Call 303-722-6262 to request a paper application or for more information.