From CBS Local Denver:

Stimulus funds aimed at jump starting the economy paid for about 4,000 trees in Denver, with many ending up at million dollar homes in Denver’s priciest neighborhoods where residents acknowledge they could have paid for their own trees, but the government was giving them out for free, so why bother?

UGArdener / Foter / CC BY-NCUGArdener / Foter / CC BY-NC

“This fella said, ‘How would you like to have a tree in your yard?’ And I said, ‘Really?,’ “ said John Backlund, who lives in Denver’s Cherry Creek North neighborhood in a home worth more than $700,000.

Backlund said he could afford to buy his own trees but a government worker was going door-to-door trying to give away trees, so Backlund agreed to take a tree.

“Too good of a deal to say no to. I was happy to get the free tree,” he said.

A CBS4 investigation found that the tree program had no income guidelines, so trees ended up being planted at homes in Denver’s Country Club neighborhood, Hilltop, Belcaro and Washington Park neighborhoods — all considered upscale areas of the city.

“It’s open to anybody,” said city forester Rob Davis. “It’s basically if you live in Denver, you want to reduce your energy costs, you want to have a tree that can raise your property value, go to the web page to sign up.”

Davis said the program spent about $600,000 in funds from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as stimulus funds, to buy and plant the trees. Davis says the theory was that using government funds to plant the trees helped stimulate the economy by creating jobs planting trees.

Peter Suderman from our May issue on the $833 billion failure of stimulus.