A Conversation with Montpelier Tree Board Chairman, John Snell

As the Chairman of the Montpelier Tree Board since 1992, John Snell has seen highs and lows of tree stewardship in Montpelier. He offers an insight into the challenges the town's faced, and the great benefits that trees can bring to our communities.


Struggles with Salt

We all know that Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's, but did you know that nearly all of the trees downtown are a result of planting by the Montpelier Tree Board's since the '76? It's a testament to their dedication to the health and beautification of Montpelier, but the journey hasn't all been a bed of roses. Salt pollution has resulted in the unfortunate demise of all but two American Elm (down from 30+ in 1992) and nearly all the Sugar Maples in the downtown area. Snell reflects, "We remain a small city struggling to keep ourselves green while also being in the middle of a huge forest!" Salt pollution from salting the roads and sidewalks in the winter is an issue that plagues many communities in Vermont, but it doesn't stop committed folks from pressing on. There would be too much to lose otherwise.

Working Together as a Community

For Snell, the iconic beauty of trees in small town Vermont settings is one of the irreplaceable benefits of healthy public trees. "I love the shades of green, the textures of the leaves, the flowers and, of course, the colors in the fall. And then there is nothing like a shade tree on a warm summer day, is there?" Not only do Montpelier residents enjoy the fruits of the labor, but also the labor itself. "We have kids and grandparents and all ages in between helping out. When I look at what we have accomplished, even if there is much left to be done, I’m amazed." 

Benefits that Last a Lifetime

On the list of things that need to be done, this summer the Tree Board will be testing out new tree guards. It's just another step they're taking to move forward and make improvements. While the work varies, the motivation behind the work remains constant: "giving a gift that will last beyond one’s own life and to share great times with others who are interested in trees."

This is truly a cause worth working towards. 

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