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Apply for a free right-of-way tree, Denver! But first, what’s a right-of-way?

DENVER — The Denver City Forester wants to give you a free tree to plant in the right-of-way adjacent to your property in an effort to bolster and diversify the tree canopy in the Mile High City.

But first, let’s define exactly what we mean when we say “right-of-way” – and how much space you need in the right-of-way adjacent to your property in order to apply for a free tree.

For starters, here’s the official definition of right-of-way:

“The right-of-way is the public land that includes the street, tree lawn and sidewalk – the width of which is established by the City of Denver. The right-of way also defines the boundary line along the street frontage of a property.”

Here’s a helpful illustration to bring that “right-of-way” definition to life:

apply for a free tree on your public right-of-way

Let’s say you have such a right-of-way adjacent to your property. You still have to meet a certain set of criteria to qualify for a free tree.

In order to be eligible, there must be space to plant a tree in your right-of-way that is:

  • 30 feet from outside edge of intersecting curbs for sight triangle
  • 35 feet from large shade trees
  • 25 feet from ornamental trees
  • 20 feet from street lights
  • 20 feet from stop signs
  • 10 feet from alleys, driveways, and fire hydrants
  • 7 feet behind attached sidewalks
  • 5 feet from water meters/pits
  • Centered within tree lawns/planters

FYI, below is an illustration of the “sight triangle.”

Sight triangle for public right-of-way

If you meet all of these requirements, you can apply to get a free tree. If you have questions about whether you meet those requirements, send an email to or call 720-913-0651.

Note that requests will be processed within a few weeks. If approved, an arborist from the Office of the City Forester, a division of Denver Parks and Recreation, will visit the site and make a recommendation as to which trees are available and which trees will thrive based on the surrounding conditions.

A tree will then be delivered and planted. Additionally, local nonprofit The Park People will be in touch to give advice on the short- and long-term care of the new tree.

So why is the Denver City Forester so keen on giving away free trees? It has a lot to do with a tiny green bug call the emerald ash borer (EAB).

EAB has already destroyed hundreds of millions of ash trees, causing billions of dollars in damage in more than 25 states. And while it may not have arrived in Denver yet, EAB was discovered in Boulder in 2013 and in Longmont in 2016. So, in reality, it’s only a matter of time before EAB arrives in the Mile High City and poses a direct threat to the Denver metro area’s 1.45 million ash trees.

Wanting to make sure our city is prepared for the impending infestation, the Be A Smart Ash campaign was born and this very website was created.

Unsure whether you have an ash tree? Use our interactive map to find out. If you do have an ash tree, visit our What Can I Do? page to begin laying the groundwork for your EAB defense plan. And if you decided you want to remove your ash tree, here are some tips to help you turn it into a beautiful table, door or even a bicycle.

Whatever you decide, let’s be clear: If you don’t make a plan to treat or replace your ash tree now, chances are you will lose it to EAB. So Be A Smart Ash and act now, Denver!