Volunteers prune needy trees in Richmond’s Fan District

By Holly Prestidge

Richmond, VA (March 24, 2014)- It was raining maple tree buds — and actual rain — as members of Richmond’s Tree Stewards took to Hanover Avenue on Sunday afternoon to tend to the Fan District’s neediest trees.

Among the group of about a dozen people was Sally Norton, a Henrico County resident and relative newcomer to the volunteer program that offers pruning and other services to the city’s trees year-round, plus mulching, staking and the planting of new trees.

A Richmond Tree Steward tends trees along Hanover Ave. in Richmond, VA. (Photo by Mark Gormus, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

A Richmond Tree Steward tends trees along Hanover Ave. in Richmond, VA. (Photo by Mark Gormus, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Norton said she loves pruning and planting trees. She tends to her own neighborhood’s trees in the county’s western end, including about 20 she planted herself.

“This group is pretty focused on the work,” Norton said of the Tree Stewards as she and several others tackled the first maple tree, removing some of the branches that had been improperly pruned.

“It’s not like people kick back and drink hot cocoa and then think about pruning a few things,” Norton added. “It’s not a social club. They’re really devoted, and their devotion to the work has already increased my sense of reverence for trees.”

Stewards are volunteers, but becoming a certified member of the organization means participating in a 10-week class and passing a pruning exam, plus on-the-job training through volunteer hours.

Suzette Lyon, another certified steward, said the group prunes for two reasons: to increase access and visibility of street signs and for developmental purposes so that younger trees grow strong.

She said urban trees often have issues that forest trees don’t, such as contact with large vehicles and trucks that break or cut branches, or residents who cut the branches to accommodate their cars but leave the trees susceptible to rot.

Norton said she knew right away that helping city trees is something she wanted to do. The sentiment isn’t lost on local residents, as she said four passers-by thanked her for her service on her first day.

“There definitely is a crowd here that’s taking care of their town,” she said. “There’s a lot of volunteering, and that’s partly why it’s so nice to live here.”

Related Resources:

Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Volunteers prune needy trees in Richmond’s Fan District”
Richmond Tree Stewards
Virginia Tree Stewards Programs