The End of An Era: UNC’s Largest and Oldest Tree Gets Chopped
November 9 marked the end of an era at the University of Northern Colorado when the long-standing champion Silver Maple tree was permanently removed from campus.
The majestic state champion tree was considered a UNC landmark and had been a staple on the Greeley campus for nearly 122 years. Prior to its removal, it was the oldest and largest tree on the university's grounds.
The Silver Maple had a trunk that measured over 80 inches in diameter with a canopy that, at one time, reached approximately 70 feet high and spanned 85 feet across. The tree had a value of $97,000.
Following an assessment in September 2022, the City of Greeley deemed the local landmark as being high-risk and hazardous. The tree had several open cavities and was decomposing from the inside. Additionally, there were multiple dead limbs that posed a danger to people walking on campus. If the branches were to break off, they could potentially hurt someone.
The beloved tree was a part of UNC's history for more than a century, stretching across the lawn in front of what was once faculty housing in central campus. Prior to chopping it down, the area around the Silver maple was roped off for safety.
To honor the Silver Maple champion, the plan is to plant 122 new trees throughout the Northern Colorado campus. Doing so will not replace the loss of the tree, but pay tribute to its purpose by planting more. Fundraising opportunities are currently in place to help pay for the new trees and honor the oldest. To learn more or to donate to the fundraiser, visit: https://bearfunded.unco.edu/campaigns/honoring-uncs-oldest-tree.
The legend of the gentle giant lives on through the memories of students and faculty, past and present. Many individuals left heartfelt comments on UNC's Facebook page, recollecting how the maple tree impacted their time on campus. Former students described climbing the tree late at night, and reading books or doing homework while perched in the branches.
Plans are still conceptualizing, but there have been talks of milling the wood and using it for special projects. Several groups on campus, including the Grounds and Landscaping department and University Advancement, as well as several student groups including the UNC Garden Club, Earth Guardians, and Student Leaf, have been discussing ways to preserve the tree’s history and keep parts of it on campus. One idea is to use the wood for tree cookies, or educational or display purposes.
UNC has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation since 2012. This is due to the university's ongoing commitment to tree preservation, care, and community involvement.
There are currently three other state-champion trees on UNC's campus: an Amur Cork Tree that was planted circa 1922, a Kentucky Coffee Tree that was placed on campus around 1930, and a large Pecan tree that began growing back in 1908.