Congratulations to Award Winners

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.  VTUCF also adminsters the Arbor Day Foundation's three recognition programs in the state: Tree City USA, Tree Campus USA, and Tree Line USA.  Award recipients and representatives from designated communities, campuses, and utility companies were celebrated at the annual VT Arbor Day Celebration.  We are honored to support and collaborate with the dedicated individuals and institutions that value and manage trees in our state.  

Vermont Tree Steward Awards

The Arbor Day Award: VTUCF program staff collectively pick a recipient that sticks out as a tree champion.

Award winner: Steve Sinclair, Vermont State Forester, retiring this year after 40+ years with the VT Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

Read Steve's nomination

(Award read by UCF Program manager Danielle Fitzko) This year’s award goes to someone that has had a lasting impact not only on each us and Vermont. This person’s passion and tireless work for trees is humbling – they have dedicated their career to healthy trees and forests and have been a great champion for urban forestry not only in Vermont, but nationally. By now, you probably recognizing that I’m talking about my mentor and boss - Steve Sinclair.

When I was thinking about what to say about to express all Steve has done, I found myself reflecting on how much Steve has taught me over the years and I found myself thinking lessons we have learned from Wise Trees. So, to express why Steve is receiving our Arbor Day award -here are 6 Lessons from Wise Trees and Wise Steve.

Lesson 1. Embrace the Humble Beginning:  The great, tall, sturdy, and strong Oaks were once little Acorns.  Steve has always embraced early beginnings and has had start-up attitude and has the courage to act on an idea and take risks. Twenty 27 years ago he left is role traditional forester to start the urban and community forestry program in Vermont – and we are benefit from the foundation that he laid.

Lesson 2. Keep growing even if you are left alone, in extreme conditions and with limited resources.  Trees can withstand a lot and continue to grow in some pretty tough conditions.  Leading Vermont’s Division of Forestry for the past 16 years has not been easy – we are small state with limited resources and some tough challenges – he possesses a continuous improvement and growth mindset that protects the health of our organization and our forests.

Lesson 3. Have a heart like trees and learn how to be grateful to the ones who have ever helped you.  Trees are selfless, they grow, fight against adversities, and provide many services that we benefit from.  Steve had lead us with heart and always lets you know when you’ve done a good job. The recognition helps keeps his team engaged and moving forward.

Lesson 4. Learn how to enjoy every moment of life.  Trees are magnificent when it comes enjoying life. They bask in the sunshine, drench in the heart-felt rain, and dance when the wind sweeps through them.  Over the past 15 years working alongside of Steve he says almost at every meeting remarks: "where’s the fun"! If it’s not fun, we shouldn’t be doing it. This joyful attitude has kept us smiling, enjoying the work we do, and serving Vermont.

Lesson 5.  Have a strong root system.  We know trees have very strong and broad root systems – they gather essential nourishments to grow and the stability to stand strong.  Steve taught us that our success not only depends on our work but an extensive rooted network our partners – and always asked when making important decisions if we were honoring our values that guide our work – healthy forests first!

Lesson 6. Live life wisely and leave the wisdom and virtue so that others can make best use of.  After serving us for years, trees continue to nourish and give back even when they retire.  Steve may be leaving the Division and Vermont, but he leaves behind his wisdom and virtue for us to use to continue enrich our lives with healthy trees and forests. 


The Hamilton Award: 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. 

Award winner: Brad Goedkoop, Hartford Tree Warden 

Read Brad's nomination

Leadership roles Brad has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate
2003 - 2012: Tree board member

Developed simplified list of USDA zone specific trees recommended for Upper Valley plantings.
Researched species suitable for public right of way and urban conditions.
Reviewed landscape plans submitted by government agencies and private developers for projects affecting public property.
Conducted public awareness activities including annual Arbor Day event and quarterly tree identification walks.

2013 - present: (Tree Warden)

Research of ISA (International Society of Arborculture) best practices for tree maintenance, hazard tree evaluation, safety and power line conflict.
Research of trees subject to urban stresses including proximity to high traffic environments and road salt exposure in Northern New England public right of way corridors.
Work with Vermont Dept. of Parks, Forests & Recreation including state entomologists (insect specialists) regarding both invasive threats and beneficial insects.
Work with Hartford Parks & Rec and Hartford Public Works in tree management issues.
Respond to homeowner concerns regarding tree health, safety, pruning and plantings.
Conduct annual winter tree identification walks and assist Tree Board members in tree identification.
Enable specimen and memorial tree plantings on public property.
Develop response mechanism for Hartford to mitigate the threat of Emerald Ash Borer (This work, conducted with Tree Board members and other volunteers, won Hartford an award from the State of Vermont 2013 Tree Steward Award, and served as a pilot template for response plan teams state-wide).
Work with White River Partnership to re-establish riparian buffers in aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene along White and Connecticut Rivers.
Develop hazard tree evaluation protocol.
Assist development and edits of Hartford’s Tree Policy.
Enhance public awareness of the need for early maintenance on public plantings via educational efforts in Hartford and neighboring school systems, public and private meetings, press releases and interviews.

With Brad's continued support and leadership, the Town, for the first time, will have a designated general budget line item "Tree Warden". This will allow the Tree Warden (Brad) to move forward with designated projects.


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. 

Award Winner: Pat Mainer, Hinesburg Town Forest Committee

Read Pat's nomination

Pat Mainer is the chair of the Hinesburg Town Forest Committee, the committee which oversees over 1,100 acres of municipal lands in the town of Hinesburg. She is a capable, effective leader in the community, and has helped to craft municipal lands which are true resources to Hinesburg and surrounding communities. She helped lead the charge to have Hinesburg engage in a public planning process around the Hinesburg Town Forest, which resulted in a visionary Management Plan which navigates the needs of many user groups and the continued health of the forest, its wildlife and natural communities. She also led the charge in having the Hinesburg Town Forest listed on the National Register of Historic Places and successfully applying for the Town Forest Recreation Planning Grant in 2017. Her job entails finding a balance between the diverse users of the HTF and negotiating the many conflicts that arise, which she does which thoughtfulness and aplomb. Pat is a joy to work with, and a true asset to her community and their municipal lands.  Pat has degrees in education and in geology, and worked as a special educator for many years before retiring.


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.

Award winner: Kyle Albee, Branch Out Burlington Vice President and Tree Sale Organizer

Read Kyle's nomination

Kyle founded and has run the Branch Out Burlington tree sale for the past 11 years. The sale has provided several thousand affordable trees for the community and Kyle has donated hundreds of trees to non-profit organizations and individuals who have recently purchased a home, had a baby, or have suffered hardships. Proceeds from the sale go toward purchasing trees for the Branch Out Burlington tree nursery to grow and later be transplanted to Burlington streets and parks.  Kyle completed the SOUL Program and is also a Master Gardener and a Master Composter. Kyle is the former President of Friends of the Hort Farm and is the Vice President of Branch Out Burlington, as well as being a seventh generation Vermonter.


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.

Award winners: Barbara and Wally Smith, Strafford Edible Pocket Park Stewards

Read Barbara and Wally's nomination

Barbara and Wally Smith have lived in Strafford for over 30 years, and Barbara has been a long time member of the Strafford Energy Committee. They are both retired teachers and since their retirement have explored many parts of the world by bicycle, touring New Zealand,Cuba, Mexico and countries in central and south America. Wally continues to lead cycling tours in Vermont and the northeast. Barbara is always busy in the edible pocket park, and her own garden during the growing season. Both are active community members and participants in many other volunteer endeavors.

The Edible Pocket Park project headed by Barbara and Wally Smith is located on the banks of the West Branch of the Ompompanoosuc River in South Strafford has been designed, planted and maintain completely by volunteers and donations. The project began in 2014 and was initially funded with a New England Grassroots grant, donations from local nurseries, and much volunteer labor. Barbara and Wally, with the help of their family, and the participation of parents and children from the Newton School planted the fruit trees, shrubs, and many perennials and herbs using permaculture principles. Varieties include apples, pears, plums, blueberries, and nut trees as well as the native edible plants viburnum and elderberry. Invasive knotweed and poison parsnip have been removed and the sumac along the river banks has been pruned for wonderful views of the valley. A split rail fence, picnic tables and benches were all donated. In 2015 Barbara added an additional 55 edible and native trees and shrubs in the Edible Pocket Park. She raised funds by selling Global Mums to pay for a water pump and heavy duty weed wacker to help with maintenance and more invasive plan removal along the river bank. More plants have been added in 2016 and 2017, with other improvements, such as a garden shed, built by Bill Goulet, and funded partially by the Newton fund with donations by Bethel Mills, also safer access to the river, and a sign designed by Will Cooney. The Edible Pocket Park is a wonderful addition to our town, providing a much used beautiful fragrant, edible oasis, open to everyone for picnics, contemplation, education and enjoying the bountiful harvest. Barbara and Wally continue donating countless hours of their own time, and work to bring in others to help improve, maintain, and learn from this idyllic park. An on-going record of the pocket park and its creation and development over the years has been kept and is accessible to all and will hopefully serve as an inspiration for other communities. We in Strafford are incredibly proud of the accomplishments of Barbara and Wally Smith and their many volunteers would love to see their efforts receive the wider recognition your award would provide.

See: or https://straffordpocketpar...


Youth/Student: Recognition of an individual or group, from elementary to college-aged, who has contributed in a noteworthy way to an activity, publication, or ceremony, or has shown continued interest in the advancement of the goals of urban and community forestry.

Award winner: Ian Lyle, Town of Essex Conservation Committee intern

Read Ian's nomination

In the summer before his senior year, Ian volunteered over 40 hours as an intern for the Town of Essex Conservation Committee to help complete the town's most recent public tree inventory, with assistance from VT UCF. Ian assisted in the field work to collect important data on every stand-alone street tree in the Town of Essex, adding it to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Atlas for public viewing. Ian then used the data to create graphs, figures, and a summary of the findings of the inventory, calling specific attention to unhealthy specimens, invasive tree species, and tree species susceptible to invasive pests. The CTC has incorporated Ian's work into a Street Tree Management Plan to guide the Town in preserving the health of public trees in the face of invasive pests like Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorn Beetle, and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.

Ian Lyle is a resident of the Town of Essex and a recent graduate of Essex High School. He is currently studying climate science at Brown University, where he has been known to hug trees.


Tree City USA

City of Burlington
Village of Essex Junction
Town of Hartford
City of Montpelier
City of Rutland
Town of Shelburne (1st year)
City of South Burlington

Tree Campus USA

Landmark College
Middlebury College
University of Vermont

Tree Line USA

Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO)