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Trees are important for the health of Denver’s residents, particularly in the summer! Summer heat waves have become more common as a result of climate change.

What are heat islands?

In urban areas like Denver, we can experience higher temperatures than our suburban neighbors because sun hits impervious surfaces like asphalt, tops of buildings, streets and sidewalks. When the heat hits these surfaces, it doesn’t have anything to reflect off of, so it just continues to heat everything around it—causing what we call a heat island effect.

How trees combat heat islands

Trees cool and clean the air and provide shade to help combat the heat. For example, the footprint of a 40-year-old American elm’s shadow is at least 60 feet wide. That’s a big shadow! The shade helps cool the home shaded by the tree and gives some relief to nearby buildings experiencing heat island effects.

In fact, American Forests estimates that nationwide, city trees prevent approximately 1,200 heat-related deaths and countless heat-related illnesses annually. Learn more from Denver City Forester Mike Swanson about how trees combat extreme heat in Denver’s historically underserved neighborhoods.

How we help Denver’s urban canopy

The Office of the City Forester works with partners like The Park People, Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (CASR) and more to prioritize areas in the city that would benefit the most from new tree plantings. Together, we partner to plant trees in neighborhoods across the city.

Since the launch of the Be A Smart Ash program, the Office of the City Forester has planted more than 10,000 free trees for Denver property owners in the public right-of way. Help us combat heat islands by applying for a free tree for your public right-of-way to equip Denver with more shade and relief from the sun.