Meet a Tree Steward

Kyle Albee, SOUL Class of 2010
Burlington, VT

Kyle Albee is known in some circles as the "Tree Man." He has been caught answering questions about trees everywhere he goes. He has even been known to offer free trees to fellow worshippers at his synagogue.

A native Vermonter, Kyle grew up in Waterbury Center. He studied business at Saint Michael's College and Champlain College. Kyle's love of trees sprouted from his mother's love of gardening and by a neighbor, Phil Lintilhac, a botanist and UVM professor, who shared his an appreciation for Vermont's forests. In fact, throughout much of Kyle's youth, you'd be more likely to find him exploring the woods after school than playing sports on the ballfield.

Kyle was introduced to Burlington's volunteer tree group, Branch Out Burlington! (BOB!), through the Extension Master Gardener course. BOB!'s energy was contagious and after a few meetings, Kyle was hooked. Kyle put his background in business to work, helping BOB! with fundraising. In 2008, he started a tree sale to help support BOB!'s community tree nursery. The first year, 100 trees were sold. In 2013 BOB! celebrated its 5th annual tree sale and sold over 900 trees. BOB!'s tree sale has been instrumental in providing trees to people who need them most - from low income residents to non-profits to smaller communities around the state hit hard by Hurricane Irene.  

When asked how he has benefited from becoming a SOUL Tree Steward, Kyle reflects that "it has broadened my horizons... I look at trees so differently now…everything from their root system to canopy." In addition to what he has learned, Kyle reports that the program has given him a network of experts and other volunteers. In fact, several 2012 SOUL students already come out to volunteer at various BOB! events. For Kyle, the SOUL program is not just about sitting in a room listening to a lecture; it is about going out and doing something. The program is about taking knowledge and applying it in your community, whether starting a tree board or a community tree nursery.

When he's not caring for trees, Kyle can be found volunteering for several other nonprofit community and statewide organizations. Kyle and his Burnese mountain dog, Cassie, visit residents in the Converse home in Burlington.

Burlington is lucky to have a strong community tree group with committed stewards, like Kyle Albee, filling the gaps in the community canopy.

Sarah Hoffmeier, SOUL Class of 2010
Montpelier, VT

Sarah grew up in western Pennsylvania with a secret love of gardens and gardening.  With no history of a green thumb in her family, she studied business in college and began her career in the corporate world.  The gardens didn’t stop calling to her, however,  so she left her job to attend the Conway School’s graduate program in Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design.   That’s where she met her husband Alex, and in 2009 they moved to Vermont to be among people who loved plants!

They settled in Montpelier and Sarah wasted no time getting involved in the community.  She greened her thumb designing and installing rain gardens for UVM Extensions’ Low Impact Development Program and joined the Montpelier Tree Board.  In 2010, Sarah enrolled in the SOUL Tree Stewards program to learn more about trees and meet people.

Since participating in the SOUL course, Sarah has been hard at work caring for Montpelier’s trees.  On Wednesday nights, you can find Sarah in downtown Montpelier, hose in hand, watering the street trees.  On Saturday mornings, you can find her and a handful of other volunteers from the Tree Board getting their hands dirty at one of the famous Tree Board  ‘work days.’ She has also been instrumental in updating the Montpelier tree inventory and keeping track of the many trees planted out from the community’s tree nursery.  Recently, she has taken on more of a leadership role on the Tree Board as the Co-Chair.  In the past four months, she has logged more than 60 volunteer hours! 

In addition to her volunteer efforts, Sarah and Alex own and operate a small landscape design and installation business called Rising Arbor Designs.  This spring Sarah has gone full-time with the business.  Needless to say, she loves it and I’m sure her customers love her!

When asked how she has benefited from becoming a SOUL Tree Steward, she reflects that “I have become part of a network.  Since completing the SOUL program, I’ve met other landscape designers and gardeners.  I’m now connected to like-minded community members and people with a passion for plants.  I’ve also gained a tremendous amount of confidence in proper pruning, when to recommend trees be removed, and when to bring in other professionals, such as an arborist.“

Life in Montpelier is a shade better thanks to Sarah and the Montpelier Tree Board!


Tim Moran, SOUL
Colchester, VT

Upon completion of the SOUL Tree Steward course, Tim Moran chose to fulfill his 20-hour volunteer commitment by conducting a shade tree inventory for the Town of Colchester in conjunction with VT Urban and Community Forestry Program (VTUCF). Although the town had developed a Street Tree Master Plan in 2001, that plan primarily addressed specifications for tree plantings in new developments as well as replacing or improving plantings along existing roadways. However, as no tree inventory had been conducted previously, there was no solid basis for recommending certain tree varieties, nor had anyone studied the overall picture to determine tree health, diversity and the susceptibility of Colchester's urban forest to diseases and insect pests and other factors. Lack of an inventory also meant that few ordinances had been put into place (other than state statutes) to protect or manage the town's trees or to restore areas where trees were cleared for development.

Although occasionally assisted by Conservation Commission members, Tim spent several months in all kinds of weather conducting an inventory of 663 trees on 30 streets, putting in far more hours than the mandatory 20 required to become a certified SOUL Tree Steward. In addition, he was the first in the state to learn how to use a JUNO, a device used to record tree data and location by GPS coordinates. VTUCF analyzed the data and summarized recommendations in a report to guide town officials in managing the community's urban forest and guide developers and the Colchester Public Works Department when selecting, planting, or removing trees. The street tree data detailing Colchester's green infrastructure will be incorporated in into the GIS-based asset management tool for public infrastructure. Given the amount of new and ongoing development in Colchester, Tim's dedication and commitment will result in important contributions to the conservation and management of Colchester's public tree resource.