- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - Tree-climbers from the United States and Canada are swinging from the trees in Colorado this weekend, demonstrating their ability to use ropes and harnesses to keep trees healthy and people safe from falling limbs.

Wes Kocher, spokesman for the International Society of Aboriculture, dedicated to the preservation of shade and ornamental trees, said arborists protect communities by cutting down limbs that could hurt pedestrians. He said they also save trees to protect open space areas for outdoor recreation, and help homeowners cut back on their electric bills by providing shade.

Kocher said the dwindling open space in many communities require special care for older trees that are hard to replace.

“It takes 50 to 100 years for some of these trees to mature, and many communities aren’t planting enough new trees,” he said.

The winners of Sunday’s Masters’ Challenge at a Longmont park will go on to compete in the international tree-climbing championships to be held in San Antonio, Texas, in April.

The North American Tree Climbing Championship is sponsored by the Illinois-based International Society of Arboriculture.

Because the arborists will use ropes rather than shoes with spikes to climb the trees, Thompson Park’s seven ash trees stretching between 70 and 90 feet tall won’t be harmed during the competition, said Ernie Wintergerst, an arborist with the city’s forestry department.

Before the competition began, volunteers climbed the park trees and pruned away dead limbs so they would not be accidentally dislodged during competition.

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