Boulder grant to help recycle emerald ash borer-killed trees and give homeless jobs

BOULDER, Colo. - The City of Boulder has developed an interesting way to deal with trees killed by the emerald ash borer that can't be moved out of the county.

Boulder will hire homeless people to take the dead ash wood and turn it into furniture and other household items. The idea won a $200,000 grant from Knight Foundation. 

"We were approached by the city of Boulder to partner in a proposal to combine woodworking and job training with the city's project to basically reclaim and reuse the ash wood," said Isabel McDevitt, Executive Director of Bridge House.

The Bridge House is a group that partners with the city to contract work for people in its program, which gives the homeless a place to stay while they become financially stable enough to make it on their own.

"We'll be doing a business plan to figure out what is marketable and also look at the kind of skills that will translate into full-time jobs for the people that work in the program," said McDevitt.

"The concept was what to do with this excess tree debris, because we don't want to export it out of Boulder.  We don't want to spread the disease or the infestation," said Sarah Huntley, spokesperson for the city.

Emerald ash borer is estimated to infect or kill 11 percent of the trees on open space land in Boulder, according to Yvette Bowden, director of the city's parks and recreation department. The Knight Foundation awarded only 37 grants to innovative ideas across the country. 

The program will go for 18 months and workers will start fashioning wood into useable items mid-summer.

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