The snow has stopped falling or the wind has died down. Now it’s time to go outside to see how the weather may have damaged trees. What a mess! Who will clean up these downed limbs?

Snow broken tree

Every weather event is different, and the City of Boulder’s response depends upon each storm's severity. Our Parks and Recreation Department’s Forestry team manages approximately 51,000 public trees in city parks and street rights-of-way. Because only 25% of the trees in the city’s urban canopy are publicly owned trees, we rely upon property owners to dispose of the branches from both public and private trees on their property.

After a weather event, our focus is on public safety, i.e. broken limbs and hanging branches up in trees. We conduct a citywide survey to prioritize our response based upon tree size, size of branch, if it's cracked or hanging, what it would hit if it fell, and how high up the branch is in a tree or hanging down to ground. Then we respond according to priority.

Generally, branches on the ground do not pose as high of a risk to public safety as those up in the tree, except for large fallen trees or portions of trees that block streets/sidewalks. The Forestry team or Boulder Police will notify private property owners if they have a private tree that threatens public property, and it is the property owners’ responsibility to mitigate the risk.

For most storms, here’s who’s responsible for what:

  • The Forestry team removes fallen limbs from public property trees that are 10 inches in diameter and larger.
    • Community members should not pile additional downed limbs onto the branch pile. The city will not pick up piles of branches that contain private property tree limbs or other types of vegetation, such as grass clippings, leaves or brush.
  • Community members manage limbs less than 10 inches in diameter. How?
    • Move any downed branches out of the right-of-way, as you are able.
    • Compost them or move them for pick up by your trash/compost hauling service.
    • Branches should be bundled together no more than 6 feet long and 3 inches in diameter. They can be placed into or next to curbside compost bins. These bundles cannot include other materials such as grass clippings, leaves, etc.
    • Branches can also be taken to Western Disposal at 5880 Butte Mill Rd.

If your private property tree has broken or hanging branches, or if you need assistance hauling larger downed branches, the city recommends using an arborist licensed with the city. A list of licensed arborists and tree contractors is available at

If a public property tree has broken or hanging branches within the tree, or to report a fallen tree or large diameter limb on the ground, please submit an Inquire Boulder Request at call Forestry at 303-441-4406. That request will be evaluated and prioritized with the city-wide response.

In rare situations after a severe storm, the city may decide to conduct a citywide branch collection. Citywide clean-ups are quite expensive, and most debris collected from past storms has been from trees on private property. The September 2020 snowstorm came at a cost of over $900,000 with most of the cost going towards the citywide branch pickup.

In addition to the high price tag, storm response work is extremely time intensive and may take city staff up to four months or more to address all safety issues. The September 1995 snowstorm took us 2 ½ years of contracted work to remove all broken branches.

Thanks to our combined efforts we can keep our streets, sidewalks, and our urban canopy clean and maintained for our community…no matter what Mother Nature may throw our way!