Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Pam Martin

Disabled Vets to Receive Free Xmas Trees


December 11, 2016

Courtesy Photo The workers at Colorado Native Christmas Trees, thinning forests to help preserve ecosystems while keeping holiday traditions alive throughout the country—but particularly here in Colorado.

Colorado Native Christmas Trees (CNCT), located in Gunnison with a tree lot in Boulder, has teamed up with Vinelife Church to offer free Christmas trees to disabled military veterans or to anyone who served in Afghanistan or Iraq. For the past seven years CNCT has also offered a 50 percent discount for native trees up to eight-feet tall to all veterans. The Christmas tree lot, which is open to all, is located in the parking lot of Vinelife Church at 7845 Lookout Road in Gunbarrel.

In the next week CNCT will have a truck loaded with free trees for veterans of the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Special Forces in Colorado Springs. The tradition started with a friend of CNCT co-owner Tony Smith, who’d served in the Air Force in Afghanistan. “I told him, send your buddies over [to the lot] and I’ll give them all trees,” Smith said.

For 34 years Colorado Native Christmas Trees has been selling “Charlie Brown-style” trees in the City of Boulder. The perfectly imperfect trees were originally acquired when Smith and his brother, CNCT co-owner Bryan Smith, began cleaning up after logging operations, salvaging the tops of trees and leftover debris, or what Smith called “slash.” Since that original ride, they’ve partnered with the US and Colorado State Forest Services, the Bureau of Land Management, cities, counties and land managers, by helping to thin forests to help prevent forest fires and the spread of damaging insect populations such as the mountain pine beetle.

On 200 acres of land owned by the Girl Scouts North of Allenspark, there wasn’t enough money in the annual budget for thinning operations, Smith said. The state forest service referred the scouts to CNCT, and since they began the partnership five years ago, “They’re happy and I’m happy—so it’s a win-win,” he said.

Tree farmers typically pick out a symmetrical tree and clone it, Smith explained. “And then they plant 10,000 acres of the exact same tree—I understand it. Farmers need to make money.” He prefers to use his tree lot as a platform to educate people with an environmental message, and to build relationships. “I’ve made my best friends in this biz,” he said.

He sells Douglas, white and sub-alpine fir, lodgepole and some spruce, and balsam and noble fir. On the lot, customers can find wreaths as well as his two reindeer (Dumas and Comet). For the non-veteran, trees range from $7 to $10 per foot.

Helping forest ecosystems flourish and to expand the lifetime of forests in Colorado, CNCT operations have served to decorate the Colorado governor’s mansion and Peyton Manning’s home, as well as government offices in Washington, D.C., and several Colorado ski resorts. The company’s thinning efforts have benefited Boulder Mountain Parks, Boulder County Open Space, the Denver Water Board and federal and state forests in Colorado.

Vinelife Church and Colorado Native Christmas Trees are hosting a bonfire at the church on Friday, Dec. 16, from 6:30 pm to 8 pm. The public is invited to come out for a family-friendly event to enjoy caroling, free s’mores and hot cocoa, as well as live reindeer. Vinelife Church is located at 7845 Lookout Road. For more information, call 303-449-3330.


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