2019 Tree Steward: Arbor Day Award

Arbor Day Award: Danielle Fitzko

The Arbor Day Award is selected the Urban & Community Forestry Program staff to honor a person or group of people who have particularly impressed us, and may not be adequately recognized by others for their work. This year’s award winner is truly a one-of-a-kind, inspirational, highly professional and supremely motivated person who has not only impressed us but also helped build us. This year’s Arbor Day Award goes to Danielle Fitzko. Danielle moved to Vermont in 2003 to begin her work as the Program Manager of the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program. Over the ensuing 15 years, Danielle cultivated projects and people that bring healthy and resilient tree canopy to urban and community spaces throughout the state. Danielle’s drive to promote achievable goals while still dreaming big has inspired countless tree professionals, volunteers, and her own staff to be excellent stewards of the resources we have in Vermont.

Of course, any of you that know Danny recognize that while she an enormous appetite for achieving the possible, she also dreams big and envisions the seemingly impossible. Never one to say no, Danny considers every new idea from her staff as if it is the next logical step in a series of leaps to the ultimate Urban & Community Forestry Program. In the spirit of the inspirational lessons provided this morning by Jan Reynolds, here are the UCF staff’s lessons learned from years of adventurous travel with Danny.

1. Every project starts with a big and clear idea. But the project only grows through attention to an infinitely long series of logistical details. Don’t let the potential roadblocks deter you. Know that there’s always a path a to be forged. Lesson learned? Always say “yes”. Unless, of course, you’re saying yes to more of Danny’s hot sauce on your bagel. Then, maybe say “no”.

2. Understanding our own strengths helps us recognize our weaknesses. Once you’ve gone through some soul searching, build a team. With a team, you’re never caught out in the cold, traversing a glacier with no one on the other end of your rope belay. Lesson learned? Trust. Know that once you build trust, you can climb anywhere.

3.You can’t plant a tree without getting a little dirty, and you can’t grow an Urban & Community Forestry team without getting a little buried. Growing tall and forging strong roots means persevering, reaching high, and riding out the storms. Sometimes this takes extra thought, extra hours, and that extra early morning or late-night push. Lesson learned? Let’s jam. Hard work doesn’t have to be hard. Roll up your sleeves, get a little dirty, and celebrate the process as much as the end goal.

And with those lessons shared, and so many more in our memories, the UCF staff thanks Danny for her unending commitment to Urban & Community Forestry in Vermont and looks forward to continued collaboration with her as the new Director of the Forests at Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation.


54 Main Street, Stowe, VT