Each year the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program and Council sponsors the Vermont Tree Steward Awards as a way to recognize our state's urban and community forestry champions.
Congratulations to the 2021 Tree Steward Award Recipients!
- Hamilton Award: Chuck Vile
- Leader Award: Tom Estill
- Unsung Hero: Nancy Knox
- Volunteer Group: Guilford Conservation Commission and Austin Parcel Flood Plain Forest Restoration - A Community Collaboration
- Arbor Day Award: Dave Schneider and Jane Brown
In recognition of a Tree Warden who has significantly advanced the goals of urban and community forestry through successful forestry practices, effective conservation planning, increased citizen engagement, and active public education. This award is in honor of Dr. Larry Hamilton, the former Tree Warden in Charlotte, and is limited to Tree Wardens.
Chuck Vile, Essex Tree Warden
Chuck has been the Tree Warden for the Town of Essex for longer than most people can remember, and he has always performed his duties with diligence, integrity, and a congenial can-do attitude. His breadth of knowledge and years of wisdom are invaluable to the community and the Conservation and Trails Committee, and he puts it to good use in a wide range of activities. These include helping homeowners assess individual tree health, conducting rural road inventories, reviewing landscaping plans for development, fixing erosion problems on forest trails, or coordinating contractors for emerald ash borer response efforts and town forest timber operations. Most folks don't realize how much Chuck does for Essex, but his hand is present in anything to do with trees.
An individual who, through services to their community or organization, has shown leadership and dedication in carrying out an urban or community forestry effort.
Tom Estill, Rutland
Tom has devoted his work to restoring the American chestnut tree to Vermont. A fungus accidentally introduced to American soil in 1904 has since virtually killed all of the native chestnut trees. A lifelong science teacher, naturalist, outdoorsman, and space educator, Tom’s work on the American chestnut stems from interest in the movement to bring back blight resistant American chestnut groves. In 2014, as a volunteer at Christ the King Middle School in Rutland, Tom encouraged the 8th graders to choose these trees for their annual community-based project. At that time, he acquired fifty seedlings of American chestnut trees from across the country that, while not fully resistant, seemed to have good outcomes against the blight. Tom oversaw the planting of these 50 seedlings throughout Pine Hill Park in Rutland, and has since personally watered each sapling 2-3 times a week during the summer months, applied deer repellant in the winter months, and conducts weekly checks throughout the year for debris removal, fertilizer, and trimming of nearby overhead branches. In 2019, Tom contacted The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), who solicited folks to start orchards. He met with the VT/NH TACF chapter president to review ideas and plans. TACF gave Tom approximately 50 seedlings to start an orchard in Vermont. These seedlings came from champion trees throughout New England. Tom carefully planned two locations for planting: the Mount St. Joseph High School and the Alan Street Campus, keeping his project accessible to and involved with local students. Tom has since received a grant from TACF to continue his work at these orchards and expansion. When asked about his motivation for American chestnuts, Tom has said he wants to be a part of righting a wrong, and would love to see Rutland, VT as the “American Chestnut Capital of Vermont.”
Unsung Hero Award
An individual and/or group who works behind the scenes and consistently goes above and beyond to make a difference in their community's urban and community forest.
Nancy Knox, Branch Out Burlington!
Nancy Knox (far left in photo) grew up exploring Vermont’s woods, and her insatiable curiosity about trees led her to study Forestry/Plant & Soil Science at UVM. She received a Master’s from Conway School of Landscape Design and then worked for a landscape design/build company for many years. Her education and work experience prepared her well to contribute to Vermont’s urban and community forests. She joined the Branch Out Burlington! (BOB!) board in the late 90’s and provides leadership which is essential for the effectiveness of the organization. She has led over 17 BOB! tree walks around Burlington, which are very well-attended. These events are designed to educate the public about the value of trees and she is an expert at transferring her extensive knowledge and passion for trees to people of all ages. She conducted tree inventories after the 1998 ice storm and served on Vermont’s Urban Forestry Council for several years. BOB! is only one of Nancy’s many environmentally-oriented public service activities. She is a Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, and Master Composter intern, and assists with environmental training of the public on these subjects. Her technical experience is invaluable to supporting the wellbeing of the urban forest of Chittenden County and beyond.
Volunteer Group Award
An organization, team or ad/hoc group, or community who, through their efforts, have shown outstanding dedication and commitment in introducing or sustaining an urban & community forestry project within their community.
Guilford Conservation Commission
The Guilford Conservation Commission (GCC) has diligently worked to pro-actively address the impact of the Emerald Ash Borer on our native ash trees. Members of GCC began studying invasive insect pests more than 5 years ago, discussing the impact on our forests and widely sharing information with Guilford land owners. Two years ago members mobilized as the EAB was discovered nearby. They requested training from Urban & Community Forests to learn more about EAB, including hands-on training to inventory Guilford’s ash trees. They developed local protocols and learned how to use online mapping tools to identify and locate ash trees along Guilford’s roads and town properties. They donned safety vests to walk all 67 miles of Guilford’s roads singly or in pairs, mapping each tree and reporting on its status and condition for Vermont’s Roadside Ash Inventory. Last spring, despite Covid lockdowns, they completed this field work, following pandemic guidelines for safe outdoor gathering, eventually counting over 2700 ash trees. Results were mapped onto highway maps for the Road Crew and incorporated into the town budget to provide for taking down hazard trees preventively. The GCC participated in EAB Awareness Week by posting locally-created signs on prominent ash trees and with daily informative postings on Front Porch Forum. This year the GCC will protect several important ash trees on town property by engaging an arborist to apply environmentally-approved vaccinations, serving as a model for others who may wish to preserve special trees. They are also applying for an Arbor Day grant, in collaboration with Guilford Central School, to beautify and provide shade to a field between the school and town office, mentoring school children about planting and caring for trees and the importance of trees to our eco-systems.
The women leading the group are inspiring, deeply-committed and efficient. They bring a diverse set of skills to the work, and are always ready to learn, follow through, document, and teach.
Austin Parcel Flood Plain Forest Restoration - A Community Collaboration
Waitsfield Conservation Commission, Friends of the Mad River, Mad River Path Association, Intervale Conservation Nursery, Vermont Master Naturalist Program
Since 2018, the Austin Parcel, town land along the Mad River in Waitsfield has been a model for invasive species removal, native enhancement plantings, and community engagement in floodplain forest restoration. These efforts have been supported and administered by the Waitsfield Conservation Commission, in partnership with the Intervale Conservation Nursery, Friends of the Mad River, the Mad River Path Association, and a new partner in 2020, the Vermont Master Naturalist Program. What makes this collaborative effort unique is the sustained, multi-year effort to restore this important floodplain and the breadth of expertise brought by the partners: floodplain restoration, native species and planting techniques, invasive species management, and community connections. When the project began this parcel was overrun with invasive species: Japanese Knotweed, Honeysuckle, and Buckthorn. Removal and regular cutting has had a significant impact and opened up significant areas for planting of native trees and shrubs. Since 2018, 524 trees and shrubs, representing 24 species, have been planted and regularly stewarded. The survivorship rates has been high at 90%. Careful records of this effort are being kept - plantings, survivorship, impact on invasive, hours devoted to invasive management, planting and stewardship. This thorough documentation is guiding ongoing efforts. Plans are in place to continue the restoration of the Austin Parcel in 2021 with the same group of committed partners.
Arbor Day Award
The Urban & Community Forestry Program staff selects the Arbor Day Award recipient(s) to honor a person or group of people who have particularly impressed us by going above and beyond to make a difference in their community's urban and community forest.
Dave served as City Forester and Tree Warden for the City of Rutland for over twenty years before retiring this past January. His dedication to municipal trees, the arborist profession, and the City itself are admirable. With a background in teaching, Dave enjoyed engaging with learners of all ages and specifically those at the Stafford Technical Center, whose students helped to build and maintain the Rutland City Tree Nursery. From the nursery, roughly 900 trees have been grown and planted into the community. Among Dave’s other notable accomplishments include collaborating with the Rutland Blooms citizen group to plant trees along the city’s gateways, advocating for the treatment of over 100 ash trees within the city’s right-of-ways in the face of emerald ash borer, and successfully advocating for the addition of an Assistant City Forester position to build capacity.
Dave also served on the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Advisory Council since 2001. He has been a guiding voice for the UCF program. Dave brought practical experience and expertise to the Council. His willingness to share and actively participate in helping communities across Vermont care for their urban trees and forests has added tremendous value to our programming. He has presented at many UCF events, including our annual Arbor Day Conference, focusing on hands-on tree care, assessing tree risk, and engaging with the community.
Dave has not only helped maintain a health tree canopy over Rutland City, but across Vermont, and we are honored to have benefited from his experience, knowledge, and passion.
Jane Brown was the first landscape architect hired within the Vermont Agency of Transportation and has spent the last 23 years greening the grey. She retired this April. Her technical and practical expertise and unwavering passion for urban forestry working at both a professional and volunteer level has helped to shape our programming for over twenty years. Jane has been involved in many projects – Route 7 in South Burlington, Route 7 through Brandon, Main Street in Waterbury – and has always been the advocate of the trees and vegetation so integral to a successful transportation corridor renovation.
Jane served on the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Advisory Council since 1999 and has contributed greatly to the Council and the program. She has served a term as Chair of the Council and has consistently brought a wealth of experience and an important perspective to Council meetings discussions. Jane specifically contributed greatly to our Resilient Right-of-Ways project (2015-2020) and the development of the Vermont Green Streets Guide.
Jane has put the power of green infrastructure to work all across Vermont – leaving a green legacy. She will continue to serve as a member of the Waterbury Tree Committee; we look forward to continuing to work with Jane as a volunteer tree steward, well into the future.