Meet Richmond Tree Stewards!

Published on December 10th, 2021 by Janna Hall

Trish Bernal organized the annual cleanup and mulching also had impressive numbers: the pruning of 40 trees!

Our health, wealth, and overall well-being depend on having trees all around us. From street boxes to our backyard, caring for our urban forestry is essential. Richmond Tree Stewards’ mission is to promote and improve the health of city trees. The organization has been active since 2007, when the dormant group was revived by Norm Brown, a city arborist, until his retirement in 2013. Norm’s enthusiasm, vision, and nourishment made it possible for such an impactful team of Tree Stewards to exist in Richmond.

Trees are a life-saving infrastructure. Tree Stewards strives to increase public awareness on the importance of an environmental framework; they plan and plant for the future, providing maintenance and care for young trees. The work of their trained volunteers ensures the city’s forest will flourish.

“The volunteers you see wearing Tree Steward safety vests have gone through 10 weeks of classroom instruction and 20 hours of ‘on-the-job’ training, and they must pass a pruning exam to earn the status of Certified Tree Steward and maintain that certification annually with continued education and volunteer work,” says Richmond Tree Stewards President Louise Seals. “It’s very important for Richmonders to understand that just like everyone else, we prune and plant only with the approval of the Richmond Urban Forestry Division and the Parks Department.” 

Richmond Tree Stewards represents a community of people brought together with a purpose that runs parallel to the trees they care for, to grow, share, and make a difference in the city’s living environment. The number of certified Stewards ranges from 40-50 people; however, dozens more contribute essential work each year. Over the last 5 years, there have been more than 25,000 hours of volunteer work recorded, thousands of city street and park trees cared for, countless questions and concerns addressed.

In March of 2017, the organization was pleased to receive Richmond City Council’s Community Service Award to recognize their service to the Richmond community. Tree Stewards is led by an Executive Committee and the Tree Steward Advisory Panel. They work closely with the City of Richmond Urban Forestry Division to plan projects, events, and classes consistent with the mission to care for the urban forest and provide education.

Richmond Tree Stewards has developed partnerships with state, regional, and local environmental and community groups, including Southside ReLeaf, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, James River Association, VCU, and Virginia Department of Forestry. These partnerships increase accessibility to environmental education and create more opportunities to incite change within our urban forests.

Assuring forests within our city are healthy for generations to come requires continuous work! Visit Richmond Tree Stewards’ website to learn more about their mission to help our community’s forest survive and thrive.