Dr. Lawrence S. (Larry) Hamilton served as tree warden in the Town of Charlotte, Vermont, from March 1996 until his death in October 2016. He enthusiastically volunteered for this role, as a way to apply his forestry, conservation planning and teaching experience to community service.
His love of nature, especially trees, was infectious—and legendary. By popular demand, he expanded the role of Charlotte tree warden from monitoring and stewarding trees in the road right-of-ways and on other public lands to include a strong educational component. He promoted understanding and appreciation of trees as especially important components of the web of life—from the practicalities of carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, to the provision of home and garden to a myriad of other organisms above and below ground, to, of course, awe, beauty and inspiration. He enlivened Charlotte’s celebration of Arbor Day with Selectboard declarations and by participating in student-assisted planting of a tree each year at Charlotte Central School. A popular leader of nature walks featuring tree identification and forest ecology, he initiated a community project to document Big Trees and Significant Trees in Charlotte on public and private land. He regularly cooperated with the Conservation Commission and served on the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge Oversight Committee. His wide-ranging educational efforts were most visible in the regular tree warden column he wrote for The Charlotte News.
In dealings with landowners and the town road commissioner, as well as with public utilities crews, Larry established a reputation for fairness and for consistently calling for replacement plantings rather than fines. Having gained the community’s respect and confidence, he was able to raise thousands of dollars from 2006-16 for a Roadside Tree Restoration Project. More than 450 trees were planted in Charlotte under his leadership. For on-going monitoring and maintenance of these, he recruited a cadre of tree keepers and organized a six-session training course for them in 2008. Other volunteers and advisors have also been drawn in, as needed, to help with technical aspects of the work.
Larry envisioned the role of tree warden as much more than a solo act. Instead he saw the tree warden as the town’s leader in educating and engaging more of the community in the stewardship of trees as important public resources. Because of this vision, Charlotte now has a tree warden, deputy tree warden and an active tree team, all dedicated volunteers doing a tangible community service and finding opportunities for learning and fellowship with others who love Nature and care about the future of their Town.