Tree Steward Awards

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.

Award Categories

Hamilton: 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.

Leader: An individual who, through services to their community or organization, has shown leadership and dedication in carrying out an urban or community forestry effort. 

Practitioner: In recognition of a practitioner’s leadership in the profession and unique contributions to the field of urban and community forestry.

Unsung Hero: An individual and/or group who work(s) behind the scenes and consistently goes above and beyond to make a difference in their community's urban and community forest.

Volunteer Group/Community: 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.

Arbor Day: UCF staff award.

2022 Tree Steward Recipients

Hamilton Award: Paul Wieczoreck, Hinesburg Tree Warden

It is an honor to support the nomination of Paul Wieczoreck for the Hamilton Tree Steward Award. I have had the privilege of working with Paul for over 30 years on numerous community environmental projects. Whether planting trees in Hinesburg village, evaluating forest land for conservation, or identifying important trees for their habitat value Paul’s extensive knowledge of all things natural and ability to teach others has been an enormous benefit to Hinesburg’s human and natural communities.

For over 20 years Paul has served in the official capacity as Tree Warden, appointed each year enthusiastically by the select board. As tree warden with a practical common sense approach and years of professional horticultural expertise he has guided the removal of hazard trees, found ways to satisfy the need to widen town roads and keep the trees, selected the street trees to be planted on public land and, advised the Planning Commission and Development Review Board on the appropriate soil, space and species requirements in the development of regulations and during the review process of major subdivision applications. With Support from the Urban and Community Forestry Program he has lead the Public Tree and Ash Inventory.

Spring is a very busy time for all gardeners and especially nursery and landscape professionals but Paul is aways available for Green Up Day a celebrated town holiday. This special day that brings a diverse group of people together to not only pick up trash, weed and mulch as needed the trees along sidewalks and town buildings and to PLANT more TREES. Volunteers are always eager to do the planting projects that Paul has envisioned for the yearly event. There is often completion among the volunteers as to who can work on Paul’s crew to benefit from his expert knowledge about how to plant and the particularities of the species that is being planted that day.

For over 40 years town residents had sought to plant trees in Memorial Park to create shade and slow traffic on RT 116 in Hinesburg Village. The Village Steering Committee (VSC) was finally able to resolve the longstanding debate over the extent of the Right of Way and safety concerns of the VT Agency of Transportation about the value of trees in this location. During this process Paul was consulted by the VSC and when permission was finally obtained Paul lead the work of planting the large trees.

In the fall Paul gathers a crew of volunteers to inspect and prune any trees that may likely be damaged by the sidewalk plowing snow. This is again an opportunity for volunteers to learn from Paul get tips on what are good pruning tools and in general glean his horticultural knowledge.

Most recently Paul in his capacity as president of the Hinesburg Land Trust conceived of and lead the effort to acquire 291 acres to be added to the Hinesburg Town Forest. With his long term dedication to protecting habitat, knowledge of forests and the importance of maintaining large blocks provided the guidance to oversee this major acquisition and conservation with an easement held by Vermont Land Trust of 1125 acres o ensure that this valuable ecological and recreational asset is conserved permanently for the community.

One rarely sees Paul without pruners on his belt, a saw in his back pocket, soil on his knees and dirt under his finger nails and head cocked listening to the birds. Paul is equally at home planting, pruning, speaking with academics, or debating with other professionals on the values of natives versus cultivars and always mindful of his role as a steward of the landscape. I hope the committee will also recognize Paul’s long term commitment and love of trees and honor him with the Hamilton Award.

Leader Award: Amanda Garland, Barre City Tree Stewardship and Community Garden Committees

The Barre City Tree Stewardship and Barre City Community Garden Committees are proud to nominate Amanda Garland for this award. Amanda has combined her leadership skills, her devotion to the environment and her dedication to teaching to set an example for us all. She has the appreciation and gratitude of our community.

A Barre City resident, Amanda's accomplishments over a short six year period are listed below. Many of items below were done with her students.

-Established an eighteen tree apple orchard at the Barre City Elementary School and continues to maintain for the school

-Applied for and received funds from the Barre Rotary to establish small apple orchards at five central Vermont schools

-Refurbished a pocket part at a south end city intersection

-Approached the Barre City Council to initiate a Barre City Tree Stewardship Committee and Community Garden Committee. Establishment was approved and Amanda was appointed chair of both.

- Assistance provided in the setup of Emerald Ash Borer traps. A city wide tree inventory had been done prior to the forming of the Tree Stewardship Committee

Under Amanda's leadership, the Tree Stewardship Committee accomplished the following:

- Planted nine shade trees on Barre's Main St, pruned existing trees. Additional shade trees will be planted in 2022

-Used funds to plant 200 trees in three Barre City locations: Torquinio Park, Brook St Community Garden and Elmwood Community Garden

- Established Barre's first tree nursery at the Barre City Dix Reservoir. Amanda and her students designed, fenced and planted the tree nursery. This project was funded by a grant from the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program. A work party/open house was held with invitations going out to the community and local legislators. The Tree Stewardship will be responsible for maintenance of the nursery.

Under Amanda's leadership, the Barre Community Garden Committee accomplished the following:

- Established three community neighborhood gardening areas for a total of 18 plots/raised beds. An area of
the Elmwood Community Garden was planted to red oak, horse chestnut and hazelnut, complimenting existing sugar maples. At the Brook Street Community Gardens, hazelnuts were planted with more trees and shrubs planned in the future.

- Currently in the process of establishing a parklet on city land across from a downtown playground. A native service berry was planted this past Fall.

Apart from her work with the city of Barre, over the past ten years, Amanda has coordinated over 100 people yearly to prune the trees at the Orchard Valley School in East Montpelier.

Practitioner: Ethan Tapper, Chittenden County Forester

Since becoming County Forester, Ethan has done a tremendous amount of direct work with communities in hosting educational events, developing and implementing management plans for municipal forests (such as Indian Brook in Essex and Andrews Community Forest in Richmond), and generally spreading the good news about forestry practices that enhance ecosystem health, rather than just extract resources. In addition to regular columns in local newspapers, before and during COVID he has branched out to multiple online platforms for public outreach while still encouraging people to get out in the woods. Ethan is the future of community forestry!

Unsung Hero Award: John Akielaszek, Montpelier Tree Board

John began exploring how Montpelier could prepare itself for the inevitable invasion of EAB in 2012 by taking the lead in working with a sub-committee of the Tree Board to research how others around the country had prepared—or had learned from failing to adequately prepare. The Preparedness Plan he created at that time has continued to serve as a model for many other communities in the state, saving countless hours of volunteer time. Six years later, when EAB was first discovered in the City, John again led the effort to look at the Plan and alter to become the City's EAB Management Plan. The impact of this Plan has also spread well beyond the city limits, serving both as a model and a means of stimulating discussion in other parts of the state. John has continued to take the lead in implementing the Management plan, working with an important range of people, including State officials, the City's Parks & Trees Department, local businesses and organizations, the City Council, local volunteers, public schools, and the Tree Board. Whenever anything related to EAB is needed, "John A," as he is known, is there with answers and, failing that, great questions that will ultimately get to answers. The regularly updated Management Plan continues to serve us well, as demonstrated by the fact that Montpelier has had only three known areas where EAB has been found—all dealt with quickly and effectively—and that is a testament to John's skills, knowledge and perseverance.

Volunteer Group Award: Barre Town Weed Warriors

The Barre Town Forest encompasses both a rich human and natural history. The roughly 380-acre forest contains 25 old quarries, three state-significant vernal pools, and the headwaters of Jail Branch. One of the most significant threats to the health of the Barre Town Forest is non-native invasive plants.

Invasive plant control can be a daunting and thankless task. Yet, driven by a love for their town forest, the Barre Town Weed Warriors have taken up weed wrenches, loppers, shovels and hand saws to make a significant dent in the non-native invasive plant population. Led by Assistant Town Manager Elaine Wang, the Weed Warriors—Sandra and Ken MacDonald, Dottye Ricks, Denise Bergeron, and Ted Fecteau, have gathered for volunteer work days and adopted individual populations since 2019. Three and a half years of working tirelessly to remove Japanese barberry, honeysuckle, buckthorn and Japanese knotweed has resulted in a significant reduction in the invasive plant populations.

Volunteer Group Award: Burke Conservation Commission

The Burke Conservation Commission have, and continue to raised funds through Grants, and local funding for the following: They have been directly involved with a number of Tree Plantings, for researching, documenting, and for starting the inventory of Ash Trees in the Town to monitor for the Emerald Ash Tree Borer. They are also involved in raising funds currently for the purchase, and creation of a Community Forest in Burke. They are involved with education classes held periodically throughout the year on different subjects such as the Ash Borer. Maintaining walking paths throughout the property that adjoins the Recreation Park. They have a Board of seven people that are actively involved, and each one truly has a passion for being involved with improving the environment as well as the Town.

Volunteer Group Award: Johnson Tree Board

The Johnson Tree Board is a team of urban and community forestry champions. Sue Lovering, Chair of the Tree Board, completed the SOUL Leadership Program and the First Detector Program. She identified the need for a Town Tree Board; lined up a group of volunteers, who developed a plan; and asked the Selectboard to endorse their plan, which they did. The First Tree Board meeting was held on April 16, 2014.

They hosted Arbor Day that year and have held activities every year since except 2020 due to Covid-19. That first year two sugar maple trees were planted at the Elementary School with help from the fourth-grade class. To date trees have been planted at the Library, the Holcomb House, on Pearl Street and Main Street, and at the Whiting Hill Cemetery. Home-schoolers, 4-Hers, and other youth and adults have participated.

Tree Board members maintain the public trees in the Village, pruning, weeding, and watering as necessary, a three-season project. They have purchased gator bags and set up a watering system to get the job done. Their care makes a difference and citizens express appreciation with drive-by waves.

In January 2020 the Tree Board formally established the Johnson Arboretum after spending hours on legalities, logistics, planning, and coordinating with decision-makers and funding sources. They created a logo, letterhead, signage, and tree identification markers; built a storage area for mulch and a kiosk for educational displays; and worked with a professional to create a landscape plan. In September they transformed the Nelson Duba Field by planting 11 trees and shrubs, then they fenced and mulched them. A small but impressive start for the Johnson Arboretum. All this work while the Tree Board team practiced Covid-19 Emergency protocols. The Johnson Tree Board members with their talent, dedication, and commitment are our community champions.

Arbor Day Award: David Raphael, Landworks, in memoriam

David Raphael, was a deep-rooted advocate for healthy and resilient trees in Vermont. David joined the Vermont’s Urban & Community Forestry Advisory Council in 2009 as a representative of the Vermont Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  During his long tenure on our Council, David consistently offered perspective from the lens of a talented landscape designer, graphic designer, writer, educator, and community planner.  He engaged in dialogue, offered opinion, volunteered his expertise, and showed true interest in Council activities and discussion.  After David passed away in January 2022, Council members and program staff held space to remember David and his vast contributions to the field of urban and community forestry in Vermont. Comments and memories shared by Council members were a true reflection of David’s passion, character, work ethic, generosity, and vision.  As one Council member was quick to point out, David taught us that you have to dream big to move the bar on what is possible.  In other words, sometimes you have to ignore reality.  David was a true steward of the environment and was intertwined with many good things and many good people throughout Vermont; he will truly be missed. We are honored to present the 2022 Arbor Day Award in memory of David Raphael. 

Previous Award Recipients

Many Vermont tree and forest champions have been recognized; click the link below to explore their great work for Vermont's trees!

Previous Award Recipients