Roanoke, VA – Each year, Roanoke Parks and Recreation’s Urban Forestry program trains volunteers who are interested in protecting the environment and giving back to the community. These Tree Stewards help care for young trees on city-owned property. The next free training starts on Monday, Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. and registration is now open.
“Tree Stewards play a very important role in keeping our urban tree canopy healthy and protected,” said Dan Henry, Urban Forestry Coordinator at Roanoke Parks and Recreation. “Since the first class graduated in 2009, volunteers have contributed almost 7,000 hours, which has saved the city roughly $155,000.”
The 26-hour training begins with nine classes held on Monday nights. Once the in-class training is complete, volunteers join three field sessions held on Saturday mornings during the spring. The field training focuses on tree planting, pruning and tree identification. Once qualified, Roanoke Tree Stewards complete a minimum of 30 hours of work during their first year and 20 hours in subsequent years. Volunteers may also give educational presentations to adults and children.
“We make sure that our volunteers are well prepared and we like to create a supportive learning environment,” said Helen Smythers, Urban Forestry Planner at Roanoke Parks and Recreation. “We work in small volunteer groups and have a work day leader who supervises and helps answer volunteer questions.”
Unlike other cities its size, Roanoke has more than 13,146 acres of tree canopy that covers more than 48 percent of the city. Home to more than 158 different types of trees, Roanoke’s urban forest is diverse and vast. The city currently has 40 active Tree Steward volunteers and Roanoke Parks and Recreation expects to train at least a dozen more in 2017.
We aim with this award to recognize a project that has been created and led by a VMN volunteer or chapter and that has made significant and noteworthy positive impacts for natural resource education, citizen science, and/or stewardship within the last 1 to 2 years. We received some terrific nominations, and all of the projects are really noteworthy. The winning project is one that was an outgrowth of a collaboration among Virginia Commonwealth University and our program focused on the greater Richmond metro area, and it has since evolved to include 100 volunteers from at least 10 different VMN chapters and a new collaborator, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The Vernal Pool Cooperative has volunteers finding, identifying, and monitoring vernal pool habitats in many areas of the state. Thus far, volunteers have identified 335 vernal pools in Virginia, and their data will help fuel conservation efforts for these special habitats. As I mentioned, many chapters are involved: Rivanna, Historic Southside, Peninsula, Shenandoah, New River Valley, and others, but since we had to choose where to give the award, we are giving it to the Pocahontas Chapter because that’s the chapter of a lead volunteer for the project, Lee Hesler. From the beginning, Lee stepped up to assume the management of the project’s online database, and has since managed the projects’ membership, pool inventory, data collection and submission, and data archiving. He has participated on the project’s steering committee and has helped to streamline the VPCV monitoring protocols. Lee has selflessly given up many of his Saturdays to help train over 300 volunteers in the data collection and entry process during 15 advanced training classes held around the state with participants from 11 MN chapters. In addition, he has continued to monitor and enter data on his own vernal pools sites in Chesterfield Co. Lastly, Lee has recruited and trained another Master Naturalist to take over for him, as he gets ready to retire from these past three years of oversight and effort.