Though there are an estimated 11.9 million trees that make up the urban forest in Vermont’s cities, towns, and villages, there are only three municipalities statewide that have an arborist on staff to maintain those trees. In the vast majority of Vermont communities, the responsibility of caring for the public trees along streets, in parks, and on other municipal-owned properties such as schools and libraries falls to public works departments, roads crews, parks and recreation departments, or – in some instances – to citizen volunteers. For the most part, these individuals do not have access to the arboriculture training and technical skills development to establish proactive tree management programs to keep our urban forests healthy, safe, and vibrant.
In 2013 VT UCF received a multi-year grant from the USDA Forest Service titled the Care of the Urban Forest Project. The project aimed to support the enhancement of municipal tree programs in 20 priority communities in Vermont. As part of this project, to date,, program staff have coordinated technical tree care trainings in 11 of these communities. In total, over 90 municipal staff and 40 citizen tree stewards in the communities of Vergennes, Johnson, Middlebury, Shelburne, Colchester, Bristol, Swanton, Northfield, Milton, St. Albans City, Winooski, Rockingham, Brattleboro, Essex, Montpelier, Hinesburg, Lyndon, and Barre City have attended a 4-7 hour weekday training with Mark Duntemann, a Board Certified Master Arborist and owner of Natural Path Urban Forestry Consultants. The trainings cover topics such as risk tree assessment, proper pruning, plant selection, and planting techniques, and understanding how to establish a standard of care for municipal trees.
The intention of these trainings is to increase local capacity to care and plan for municipally-managed trees and the feedback from the communities has been overwhelmingly positive. Town leaders in many of these communities have recognized the importance of having trained employees on staff to protect and maintain its tree resource. We look forward to hosting 9 more technical tree care trainings in the coming year and to continue to work with municipal staff to sustain Vermont’s urban forests.