Volunteer program helps municipalities and serves communities
|PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TREE STEWARDS OF THE GREATER LYNCHBURG AREA.
|Klaus Schreiber, left, Lynchburg city urban forester, directs Tree Stewards Adrian
Gagesteyn, forefront with saw, and Herman Schenkel, pruning the tree, on proper
city street tree pruning.
City municipalities can
benefit from a tree steward program—and the trained volunteers gain
from the experience, too. “Those involved in the tree steward program
achieve great satisfaction in learning more about trees and in applying
their knowledge while caring for our city’s trees,” says Marge
Denham, coordinator of the Tree Stewards of the Greater Lynchburg Area in
Lynchburg tree stewards
About 40 people have gone through the Tree Stewards of
the Greater Lynchburg Area program, now in its 12th year. They go through
30 hours of classroom instruction and learn about the biology and anatomy
of trees, proper planting and pruning techniques, pests and diseases that
affect trees and the selection of the best tree for the right place.
Campbell County, Va., resident Robert Fairchild took the class several
years ago to learn how to prune his apple, plum and peach trees.
“I took the class and learned a lot more than
just how to prune,” he says. “I got involved in what they were
doing as a service for the city. It’s very rewarding when you go and
do the work. You’re accomplishing something that’s valuable for
the environment and for nature. Trees provide oxygen, cooling and shade,
and it’s stabilizing the soil.”
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE FRONT ROYAL/WARREN COUNTY TREE STEWARDS.
|A volunteer from the Front Royal/Warren County
Tree Stewards demonstrates proper pruning
techniques during a public seminar.
Two years ago, when Margi Vaughn and her husband, Rob,
moved from Charlottesville to Lynchburg, she couldn’t believe what
she was seeing. “I was shocked and surprised with happiness at the
absolutely beautiful trees in the town,” she says.
A master gardener in Charlottesville and a person with
a real soft spot for trees, Vaughn could easily appreciate the hard work
that tree stewards performed in Lynchburg. So much so, that she enrolled in
the tree steward course last year.
“It has helped me solidify the knowledge I came
with,” she says.
Expanding her knowledge, Vaughn quickly learned the
damage that ice storms can impose, especially for the power company, if the
street trees are not properly maintained and pruned throughout the year.
Professionals and volunteers such as arborists,
college professors, extension agents and other tree stewards teach the
classes that volunteers such as Fairchild and Vaughn have attended.
Klaus Schreiber, Lynchburg city urban forester, spends
three to five hours per month with the volunteers in meetings or doing
activities. He says in 2006, the Tree Stewards of the Greater Lynchburg
Area pruned 851 trees and planted 39 trees, all involving more than 1,000
hours of service. He sees the service as invaluable to public education and
“They make sure the city leadership understands
the importance of the urban forest and the citizen support for tree
planting and care,” Schreiber says. “Most of the pruning work
that they do is very detail-oriented work and would better be described as
tree training. This type of work is not done by our contractor and would
likely go undone if not for the tree stewards.”
Denham says that in 2006, the tree steward volunteers
performed monthly pruning, planted trees in the spring and fall, assisted
in planning and conducting the annual Arbor Day celebration, planted
several trees as memorials for deceased citizens and sponsored an apple
tree grafting workshop. They also helped a local art center apply for a
grant to plant trees and provided volunteers to help plant them, and helped
a local elementary school develop and plant a wetland on the school
The Lynchburg tree stewards use tree guards and larger
mulch beds around young trees, so the trees are protected against lawn
mower and string trimmer damage, Denham says. This practice has reduced the
mortality rate of city street trees by 50 percent. They also encourage the
use of chipped wood products to protect the trees from root damage. This
enlarges the mulch beds in the parks and along highways and has saved space
in the city landfill, Denham says.
Front Royal tree stewards
The Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards program
in Virginia began in 1997.
In 2006, 26 active certified tree stewards
contributed 2,074 hours of service to Front
Royal and Warren County. The Front Royal program’s president, Herb
Rinehart, says seven educational programs for the community were supported
by these hours, as well as hands-on tree care.
To become a certified tree steward in the Front
Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards program, a person must complete the
training course developed by Trees Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.,
and do a minimum of 25 volunteer hours of service each year. Rinehart says
75 people have completed the course and many have gone on to become tree
“The group is proud to be a partner with the
town of Front Royal in helping it to be designated for seven consecutive
years a Tree City USA community by the National Arbor Day
Foundation,” Rinehart says.
Michael Kenyon, a former certified arborist for the Davey Tree Expert Co. in New York, served for several years as a tree steward in the Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards. He says the group
helped form the Urban Forest Advisory Commission (Tree Board), which is a
requirement for Tree City USA. The tree board serves as an advisory
committee to the town council and provides recommendations related to
public tree issues. Some of the commission members are tree stewards, and
Kenyon has served as chairman of the board for several years.
As a former certified arborist, “I guess I never
lost my passion for trees and their proper care,” Kenyon says of his
long service to the volunteer group. “Once the first class graduated,
I became the president and served many years in that capacity. Now, I am
more of a behind-the-scenes support person, write many of the newspaper
articles and participate in many of the pruning projects.”
Kenyon stays active in the group because of the issues
concerning tree topping and the selection of professional tree care
“Many more people in this area, some tree care
companies included, know more about tree care than they did 10 years ago
because of this group,” he says. Kenyon adds that the volunteers have
taken the workload off of the town horticulturist.
He also persuades youngsters to learn more about tree
care. “We already have written and performed a play for grade school
children on tree topping and its dangers,” Kenyon says. “We now
also have two years under our belt holding a class called ‘Trees are
Cool’ for many different ages of children.
“Children are our future,” he adds,
“and if we can provide the knowledge at a younger age, they will
develop a much better attitude toward tree care when they become homeowners
later in life.”
Some of the tree stewards’ educational
activities involve holding annual classes for children and adults, writing
columns in local newspapers and setting up a booth at local town festivals.
The Web site of the Front Royal/Warren County Tree
Stewards, www.treesfrontroyal.org, provides helpful information about:
Reasons to hire an arborist
Tree care best practices
How to properly trim trees
How to become involved in tree stewards
Ways trees are killed
Location of oak trees in Front Royal
Links to other tree care associated sites
Calendar of events.
The Tree Stewards of the Greater Lynchburg Area and
the Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards are part of the Virginia tree
steward program sponsored by Trees Virginia (Virginia Urban Forest
Council). The council budgets about $7,500 annually to support the
council’s tree steward program, says Paul Revell, urban and community
forestry coordinator with the Virginia Department of Forestry in
Charlottesville. Some of those funds go to the Virginia Cooperative
Extension Service, which also operates a model of the tree steward program.
Revell administers the funds that support Trees
Virginia and talks up the tree steward program with interested parties in
other states. “Trees Virginia is currently the only funding source
for this program,” he says, “but some funding in the past has
come through urban and community forestry grants that are administered by
the Virginia Department of Forestry.”
Besides Lynchburg and Front Royal, a Virginia tree
steward program is in place in the Albemarle and Charlottesville area.
The Alexandria/Arlington area tree stewards are taught
by cooperative extension using Trees Virginia training materials, Revell
says. The Virginia Beach and Chesapeake area supports a tree steward
program as part of several master gardener groups.
|PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE FRONT ROYAL/WARREN COUNTY TREE STEWARDS.
|As part of an educational project, a
volunteer in the Front Royal/Warren
County Tree Stewards teaches children
how to properly plant trees and how
to take care of them.
“We intend to continue our regular pruning and
planting events, assisting with the Arbor Day programs and conducting
workshops as we see needed,” Denham says. “We also look for
opportunities to assist organizations in planting trees.”
Growth of the Trees Virginia and extension tree
steward programs rests with localities and the
interests by the public. “I would like to see both programs expand, and Trees Virginia will be devoting some
energy to that effort in 2007,” Revell says. “These groups can
be invaluable to their communities in the number of volunteer hours that
they can devote to caring for public trees and providing information on
tree-related issues. I would like to see the Trees Virginia and Cooperative Extension groups
work more closely together and do joint trainings as well.”
In Front Royal and Warren County, Rinehart says
local tree stewards will continue to develop an arboretum and the Greenway
development project. They will work on a Christmas parade float with the
theme “Plant a Memory, Save a Tree.”
The Trees Virginia program continues to plant memories
and save trees through the dedicated service of community volunteers known
as tree stewards.
The author is a freelance writer in Danville, Va.
Tree Steward Contacts
To learn more about Virginia tree steward programs,
Virginia Department of Forestry
Charlottesville, Va. 22903
Virginia Urban Forest Council
Sandra Wilson, tree steward coordinator for Trees
Front Royal, Va. 22630
Tree Stewards of the Greater Lynchburg Area
Marge Denham, coordinator
Lynchburg, Va. 24503
Front Royal/Warren County Tree Stewards
Herb Rinehart, president
Front Royal, Va. 22630
Peter Warren, extension agent, horticulture
460 Stagecoach Road
Charlottesville, Va. 22902
Virginia Beach, Va. 23451
Virginia Cooperative Extension
3308 South Stafford St.
Arlington, Va. 22206