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.
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.
A call for nominations occurs in January, with a deadline in March. The Vermont Tree Steward Awards are announced in April and the ceremony will take place at the Arbor Day Conference.
2019 Tree Steward Recipients
Hamilton Award: Geoff Beyer, Montpelier Tree Warden
Geoff is the head of the Montpelier Parks Department and works tirelessly with a strong vision of the role trees have in the city. He supports the work of the tree board with skills, knowledge, time and energy. His work throughout the city is multiplied many times by his creative use of various sources of labor. He has mentored and supported many to go on and further their careers in similar work.
Leader Award: Lynn Wild, Montpelier Tree Board
Lynn is a member of the Montpelier tree board and helped create a neighborhood planting program in which she organized the planting of dozens of trees along one street. She created a tree stewards program at a nearby elementary school and encouraged children to learn about trees by planting and caring for the newly planted neighborhood trees. Lynn also established a mid-winter Festival of Trees, now in its fourth year, and last year established the first Tree City Montpelier celebration in the month of May. All of this on top of regularly begin at Tree Board meetings and work days! Ideas about trees sprout like Red Maple seeds and many continue to grow strong with time. She is not only an excellent organizer but also a "silvan charmer" who is nearly impossible to resist when she asks for support.
Unsung Hero Award: Karla Ferrelli, Branch Out Burlington!
Karla has been involved in promoting Burlington’s urban forest for over 36 years. She was recruited in 1995 to establish a citizen tree group for Vermont’s largest city and played a leadership role in founding Branch Out Burlington! (BOB! for short). She helped formulate the group’s goal of promoting a vision of a city graced by a variety of beautiful and healthy trees, and a citizenry involved with the expansion and preservation of our urban forest. She has remained an active member of the board ever since, serving in many roles. She has always contributed sweat equity in BOB!s tree planting activities, including community street tree planting and in the Burlington Community Tree Nursery. Some of Karla’s accomplishments include:
-Coordinating the thankless task of acquiring the status as a non-profit 501-C3 organization.
-Serving as treasurer for over 10 years.
-Maintaining BOB!’s mailing list of over 800 addresses, and coordinating mailings to notify the public about events.
-Identifying the need to have a website to reach a wider audience, and when it was time to upgrade the website appearance, working with a local designer to modernize the site.
Karla’s significant contributions to Burlington’s trees through BOB! is well known to those involved with the organization, but she has always preferred to work behind the scenes. Thus, she is truly is an unsung hero for Burlington’s urban forest. Her insights into how to manage the group professionally and reach the needs of the public are critical to the ongoing operations of BOB! She has demonstrated an impressive sustained effort and commitment to the group and trees. BOB! remains an important group, promoting the wellbeing of Burlington’s urban forest, and her efforts are fundamental to its continued efficacy.
Volunteer Group Award: Fairlee Town Forest Board
The Fairlee Town Forest Board embarked on ambitious planting program that has now grown to be part of the Riverdell Academy science curriculum. Through collaboration with Redstart, Inc. and the American Chestnut Foundation, the town forest board created a demonstration planting project site of American chestnut seedlings within the town forest. They hope to introduce chestnut trees to the town forest that are resistant to the chestnut blight. This project started in 2016 with students and board members planted chestnut seedlings. The trees were tagged for future identification and protection measures were taken to ensure the seedlings survive. The trees are re-visited each year by the teachers and students who are utilizing the planting site to study and care for the tree each year. The data collected is also shared with the American Chestnut Foundation. This program continues each year and is integrated within the school curriculum.
Arbor Day Award: Danielle Fitzko
The Arbor Day Award is selected the Urban & Community Forestry Program staff to honor a person or group of people who have particularly impressed us, and may not be adequately recognized by others for their work. This year’s award winner is truly a one-of-a-kind, inspirational, highly professional and supremely motivated person who has not only impressed us but also helped build us. This year’s Arbor Day Award goes to Danielle Fitzko. Danielle moved to Vermont in 2003 to begin her work as the Program Manager of the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program. Over the ensuing 15 years, Danielle cultivated projects and people that bring healthy and resilient tree canopy to urban and community spaces throughout the state. Danielle’s drive to promote achievable goals while still dreaming big has inspired countless tree professionals, volunteers, and her own staff to be excellent stewards of the resources we have in Vermont.
Of course, any of you that know Danny recognize that while she an enormous appetite for achieving the possible, she also dreams big and envisions the seemingly impossible. Never one to say no, Danny considers every new idea from her staff as if it is the next logical step in a series of leaps to the ultimate Urban & Community Forestry Program. In the spirit of the inspirational lessons provided this morning by Jan Reynolds, here are the UCF staff’s lessons learned from years of adventurous travel with Danny.
1. Every project starts with a big and clear idea. But the project only grows through attention to an infinitely long series of logistical details. Don’t let the potential roadblocks deter you. Know that there’s always a path a to be forged. Lesson learned? Always say “yes”. Unless, of course, you’re saying yes to more of Danny’s hot sauce on your bagel. Then, maybe say “no”.
2. Understanding our own strengths helps us recognize our weaknesses. Once you’ve gone through some soul searching, build a team. With a team, you’re never caught out in the cold, traversing a glacier with no one on the other end of your rope belay. Lesson learned? Trust. Know that once you build trust, you can climb anywhere.
3.You can’t plant a tree without getting a little dirty, and you can’t grow an Urban & Community Forestry team without getting a little buried. Growing tall and forging strong roots means persevering, reaching high, and riding out the storms. Sometimes this takes extra thought, extra hours, and that extra early morning or late-night push. Lesson learned? Let’s jam. Hard work doesn’t have to be hard. Roll up your sleeves, get a little dirty, and celebrate the process as much as the end goal.
And with those lessons shared, and so many more in our memories, the UCF staff thanks Danny for her unending commitment to Urban & Community Forestry in Vermont and looks forward to continued collaboration with her as the new Director of the Forests at Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation.
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!