A Day in the Life: Arborist shares experiences caring for trees at CSU

Steve McCarthy
Steve McCarthy

Steve McCarthy has been a State Classified employee at Colorado State University for the past 10 years, working as an arborist for Facilities Management in Outdoor Services (Grounds).

McCarthy’s days are spent keeping the trees healthy and safe for the campus community, structurally pruning and “raising” trees — the process of taking off the lower limbs. McCarthy — one of three State Classified employees who are International Society of Arboriculture certified arborists at CSU Facilities Management — also removes dangerous tree limbs caused by storm damage.

The best part of McCarthy’s job he said involves grinding stumps to make space for tree replacements and planting trees. He said he finds it rewarding to introduce new tree species onto campus, helping to fulfill the CSU Campus Arboretum’s main goal of expanding tree diversity.

As part of this, he assists with the response to Emerald Ash Borer, as Outdoor Services replaces smaller ash trees with more diverse options. One of his proudest projects at CSU involved planting over 170 trees this past spring in celebration of CSU’s sesquicentennial.

For McCarthy, who has been involved with tree care, forestry, and logging since he was in junior high school, the job also has its surprises.

From time to time, CSU’s arborists have assisted with swarms on campus, helping beekeepers remove hives down from trees to be relocated to a safer spot.

“I never look at my job as work,” said McCarthy, a CSU alumnus with a degree in watershed science. “Rather, I feel lucky to be able to consider it fun.”

Trees around campus


The Oval is home to some of Steve McCarthy’s favorite trees on campus.

Because of his job, it may not be surprising to learn that his favorite places on campus are the Oval and the former site of Old Main. That’s where the trees are the oldest — many are over a century in age. It also is where CSU has one of the tallest of its oldest trees — a spruce at around 110 feet in height.

The rock elms by the Danforth Chapel and Laurel Avenue approach a similar height, and one is the state champion. Comparatively, he explained, the first branch of a fully mature redwood tree starts around 200 feet. He encouragesd the campus community to take time to visit these trees and see their height, magnificence, and beauty in person.

When he’s not at work, McCarthy has hiked the Grand Canyon over a dozen times, and once had to be helicoptered out due to a ruptured disc. “It was quite the ride,” he said.

In his spare time, he also enjoys cooking, baking, and reading. His favorite authors are Jim Harrison and Hermann Hesse.

Sharing this quote by Hesse, McCarthy reminds us: “Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”

Classified Personnel Council: ‘A Day in the Life’

“A Day in the Life” is a feature introducing the campus to the stories of State Classified colleagues to get to know and recognize their diverse responsibilities and duties.

To recommend a State Classified individual or group to feature in a future “Day in the Life,” visit cpc.colostate.edu/day-in-the-life. Follow the CPC on Facebook at facebook.com/ColoradoStateUniversityCPC.