(Riverton, WY) – “In recognition of fifteen years of service and dedicated performance…” James Brodle was presented with a plaque by Mayor Timothy Hancock, City Council, and the Public Works department for his volunteerism on the Riverton Tree Board at the last Riverton City Council meeting.
Brodle began his service on the Tree Board on February 7, 2008, and announced his retirement on February, 7, 2023, the same day, fifteen years later.
Mayor Timothy Hancock said that when right when he was first elected, he went to a Tree Board meeting where at one point, Brodle had “said something I thought indicated that he still had a ways to go before he was going to leave,” he said. “Sometime in the future, I’m not going to be here anymore…and I’m thinking, you know, ‘some time in the future’…there’s a lot of different meanings to it when you’ve been there for 15 years, it might mean five years. But no, it was two months.”
“I think 15 years is plenty of time,” Mayor Handcock continued, “He’s earned his recognition; he has definitely earned a little bit of a break talking about trees once a month. So we really appreciate all of the hard work you put in for the City of Riverton.”
“Fifteen years as a volunteer is pretty admirable,” said Public Works Director Brian Eggleston. “You guys have accomplished a lot over the years, and we appreciate your input and value to the Tree Board.”
The citizen-volunteer Riverton Tree Board was established in 2001 as an advisory board to the Riverton City Council, with the responsibilities of considering and making recommendations concerning rules and procedures for the care of the city’s trees, advising the City Council on urban forest planning and procurement, assisting the Mayor in developing an Arbor Day celebration, as well as any considerations or references made by the City Council pertaining to trees or the city’s urban forests.
Riverton’s Trees: Growth and change through the years
“When I joined the Tree board, there was no real appointed limitation on time,” Brodle said in a recent interview. “There wasn’t any ceremony or anything when I was originally inducted into it, but I did get an official paper that basically said, ‘Hey, I’m on the Tree Board.’”
When asked how he has seen the layout of Riverton grow and change over the years, Brodle said that the “trees on the trail were smaller,” he said. “When they were planted, they all had a ring-drip watering system. Let’s say you decide to plant this tree, water it, put mulch around it, and you think you’re done with it and move on to other things. But as the tree grows, the roots go out way past that tree ring. And then you have some trees that need more water than others; you can run into trouble if your watering is inadequate for a larger tree…so they were routinely losing trees. So then the City takes it out and they replant it. It’s changed over time, from the beginning until now.”
Funding for the Tree Board is included in the City’s budget. State and forestry service grants are also sources of funding. Brodle said that the board recently met with the City to review and update the current ordinances. “The city hasn’t come back to review it with board yet, but that project is basically done.”
Arbor Day and Memorial trees
The City of Riverton is designated as an official Arbor Day city and holds ceremonies every year. Last year they planted a tree next to the skateboard park in conjunction with the Skate Jam event in City Park. Plans for this year’s ceremony are tentative; however, it’s been discussed to have an event in conjunction with and as a segue into Military Appreciation Month in May.
Memorial trees are planted at various locations throughout Riverton. Memorial stones are engraved with the type of tree planted, the name of the person to whom the tree is dedicated and are then placed with the tree.
“When you go down Sunset, just before you get down to Federal–on the right where the trail is–there’s a crabapple tree grove,” Brodle said. “These were donated by people and individuals, and the Tree Board are the folks who look after them. If you buy a tree in someone’s name, the Tree Board will plant it.”
“Trees are the most important part of a town.”
Brodle said that the location of every tree in Riverton is accounted for and numbered on a GPS map, and during his time on the board he has helped in planting about 150 trees. He hopes that the community continues to support the Tree Board and that “more people will be interested in joining and helping out,” he said. “I think trees are the most important part of a town…but the trees are getting bigger and older.”
In his observations and experiences as a world traveler, Brodle said that many corridors from airports to the downtowns are well-kept. “Our downtown is very nice,” he said. “One thing I will say as far as beautification is that, if you drive and from the airport (on Airport Hill), it is very, very bad. The road is not maintained; there’s junk along the road. Nobody has taken responsibility for it. That whole thing, that whole corridor, ought to be nice.”
Brodle acknowledged that there are plans and “work afoot” as far as widening and grading the road. “There needs to be prime consideration for there to be some beautification along there,” he said. “It needs to be cleaned up and designed properly…so you have to get practical about it and realize that if you put big trees in, they take a lot of water and a lot of time.”
Brodle also said that “businesses and owners of the properties who just have access to the road but haven’t thought about how to make it look good…have to be an integral part of helping with the beautification,” he said. “So the cities, the county, the tribes, the people, and the businesses along there all have to cooperate.”
Pride in residential and community beautification
When asked what types of trees they recommend planting going into the future of Riverton, Brodle and his wife, Carol–both Master Gardeners—referred to the UW Extention Department of Plant Sciences publication for the Wyoming-regulated tree types.
The Brodles have planted many of these trees on their property. “The City also has lists of what you should plant,” Carol said. “They have recommended trees of Wyoming for our area. We have most of them here; we’ve learned what trees to get and what to do with them. You can buy a tree that seems nice, but not really meant to be here…then you get a bad winter and it’s wiped out.”
They recommend cottonwood, burr oak, (seedless) Shade Master honey locust, crab apple…and linden trees, of which the Boodles have three varieties on their property.
“Avoid Russian olive, aspen…and ash trees because of the Emerald ash borer which has been found in Colorado,” Carol said. “It’s not here, but if someone in Colorado brings up a load of wood that has the Emerald ash borer, we’ll have them here.”
Jim also advises, when planting trees, to consider the eventual size and cost of maintenance. “We say we want trees,” Jim said. “I tout trees; they save me on air conditioning, give shade, reduce the carbon…all of the advantages are known and listed. But you have to change the system when it comes to maintenance. Tree maintenance, removal, cutting down a tree…it’s labor intensive and costly. So the city needs an (automated) system that can not just pay for the trees to be planted, but to maintain them in order to keep the city nice for years to come.”
“I think that that the Riverton Tree Board is a very valuable part of a city,” Brodle continued. “Riverton needs a tree board, and it needs to be supported…on general principle, if nothing else, because it’s about beautification. What would this place look like without any trees? A tree board is justified by that. This means that somebody has to be looking forward and trying to make things better.”