Once a preferred tree for landscaping, the Russian olive is coming down in Lakewood.
The city is teaming up with the city and county of Denver, Englewood, Colorado Heights University and Fort Logan National Cemetery to get rid of the invasive plant species.
The cities received money from an Invasive Phreatophyte Control Program Water Conservation Board grant (IPCP) to remove the Russian olive trees along the lower Bear Creek watershed from Bear Creek Lake Park to the South Platte.
According to information provided by Lakewood, work along the city’s portion of the creek is scheduled to occur in July, ending around Aug. 8. Much of the removal work will take place between South Kipling and South Estes streets.
“Russian olive is designated as a ‘List B’ species in the Colorado Noxious Weed Act, and it’s really gotten out of control,” said Drew Sprafke, regional parks supervisor. “It out-competes native species like cottonwood and willow trees.”
Erik Nilsen, natural resources specialist with the city, said Russian olive trees provide little in the way of habitat or food to wildlife. Sprafke added that the trees use a lot of water, as well.
The IPCP grant provides for removal work by the Mile High Youth Corps, Nilsen said. Equipment and additional labor will be provided by Lakewood’s Regional Parks staff.
“For about a month we will have people cutting the trees down, putting them into a chipper and turning them into mulch that can be reused,” Nilsen said. “In certain places along the trail, it’s almost 50 to 60 percent Russian olive, so people will see a pretty significant difference.”
Opportunities to replace the trees with native species including narrowleaf cottonwood, American plum, woodrose, dogwood, serviceberry and chokecherry will be available later in the summer, including National Public Lands Day, Sept. 28.