Where do old Christmas trees go? Yours might be at the bottom of Roosevelt Lake.

Where do old Christmas trees go? Yours might be at the bottom of Roosevelt Lake.

Roosevelt Lake (Shutterstock Photo/Jonathan Manjeot)

By Robert Gundran

February 9, 2024

What happens to your Christmas tree once you toss it in the trash? It might be sitting at the bottom of a local lake.

The city of Gilbert partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to recycle trees by dropping them in Roosevelt Lake and providing new habitats for the fish.

Roosevelt Lake is about 50 miles northeast of Phoenix and is one of several reservoirs along the Salt River.

“Over time habitats degrade, especially for man-made lakes,” said Amberle Jones, aquatic program manager with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “The bottom [of those lakes] don’t have much vegetation. By putting the trees in the water it adds more complex habitats.”

The trees were tied to cinder blocks and dropped into the water at different spots along the lake, the city said in a press release.

Jones said the trees give smaller fish a place to hide from predators, and phytoplankton grow on the trees, which gives the fish more food.

Gilbert collected almost 2,000 trees to recycle, according to the city. Of those collected, 600 were donated to Game and Fish to drop in Roosevelt Lake.

A dozen trees were taken to the Goats With Horns Animal Sanctuary to become food for the goats there, while 50 more were given to the Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department for training.

The remaining 1,200 were brought to a recycling facility and turned into mulch.


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  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

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