Unlike most major cities, in Denver, property owners are responsible for the care of “their” street trees even though they’re technically owned by the People of Denver.
That means you (as “owner”) are responsible for obeying city tree pruning ordinances. Private trees, such as those in your backyard, have fewer restrictions, but you’re required by city ordinance to maintain and prune trees to ISA standards.
Denver Tree Pruning Ordinances
Here are the top 10 rules and guidelines you need to know if you’re pruning Denver trees.
- A permit is required to trim or remove any street tree, even if you do it yourself. There is no charge for a permit.
- If you have a dispute with a neighbor over a tree, it is a negotiated civil matter. City arborists cannot intervene unless a tree is a legitimate structural hazard.
- Right of way trees abutting your property are your responsibility. This includes removing diseased trees.
- If you prune a right of way tree, you must follow the same ISA guidelines that a licensed tree service or city pruning crew does.
- A legal pruning cut must be made outside the branch collar. A large branch pruning requires three cuts in the following order.
- An undercut about 2 feet out from the branch collar.
- A second top cut a bit farther out. This prevents bark stripping.
- The third cut is done just in front of the the branch collar to remove the remaining 1 to 2 foot stub.
- Pruning saws are very sharp. A kerf can be created when you make the top cut pulling the saw out of the climber’s hand. Make sure people are not under the tree.
- When planting a tree in a right of way, only certain tree species are allowed. Evergreens are not allowed because they block site lines. Recommended trees for Denver.
- It is required to hire a licensed tree service to perform work on street trees.
- Front yard trees must be protected during a remodel, renovation or landscape re-design, per city ordinance.
- When planting a tree, they must be spaced as follows.
- Shade trees are required to be 35 feet apart
- Ornamental trees are required to be 25 feet apart
- All trees are to 20 feet from street lights, 10 feet from alleys, driveways & fire hydrants and 7 feet from attached sidewalks
The forestry office is tasked with preserving the urban canopy. In practice, most of the City of Denver tree inspectors will be flexible and creative in fulfilling that mission while also making sure your landscaping needs and wants are met.