The Tree Wardens' Association of Connecticut has a membership of around 200 individuals, primarily Tree Wardens, but also representing the municipal, arboriculture, forestry, and horticultural fields. This is certainly not a requirement though and all are welcome to join. Additionally, members are encouraged to get involved with the various committees that make up the Association.
Every city and town in Connecticut must have an appointed tree warden (Connecticut General Statutes Section 23-58). The legislative intent of this statute is to assure that municipalities maintain, care and protect a valuable and essential natural resource - municipally owned trees.
Trees cover most of the state, to such an extent that they are often taken for granted. Until there is a crisis of some sort, most people do not think about the benefits trees provide us, and certainly most people do not realize that trees under public ownership require maintenance, care, monitoring, and sometimes removal. Municipal trees enhance the favorable business climate in our business areas; they reduce noise, air, and visual pollution; they increase tourists image of Connecticut as they drive throughout our state; they slow rainfall decreasing soil erosion and non-point source pollution; they cool our homes, businesses, recreation areas, and provide wildlife habitat.
It falls upon the shoulders of the municipal tree warden to see to it that public trees are maintained properly, removed if deemed hazardous, and replaced. This is a big responsibility, one that requires the tree warden to be as knowledgeable about tree biology, maintenance, and public affairs as possible. The more a tree warden knows about arboriculture, tree biology, tree structure and function, insects and disease, proper pruning practices, tree selection, tree planting, meeting management, public affairs, and tree law, the better they will be able to perform their duties.
A Connecticut municipal tree warden is arguably the most important human component of a city or town’s community forestry program. That state law requires a tree warden to be appointed in each Connecticut municipality is widely known. But beyond this simple fact, there are many misconceptions about the position. A community in Connecticut cannot conduct an effective community forestry program without the participation, perhaps even the leadership, of a well-qualified, active tree warden.
The formation of the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, Inc., was part of a larger national effort, one that was tailored to the local needs of the state. Beginning in 1977, federal legislation authorized the U.S. Forest Service - Cooperative Forestry, to design and implement a national urban forestry program in partnership with state forestry agencies. The program was staffed, but barely, as it was underfunded from the start and until 1989.
President George H.W. Bush, through the 1990 Farm Bill, changed urban forestry in the U.S. by providing a significant budget increase for the program. As a consequence, federal dollars flowed to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Forestry (and the other states), that were sufficient to hire a state urban forestry program coordinator, Fred Borman, and an Extension urban forester, Jeffrey Campbell. Fred was already working for the Division of Forestry at Shenipset State Forest, then moved to Hartford to assume the coordinator role. A few years prior to the 1990 Farm Bill, a several people in Connecticut predicted the rise of federal urban forestry and created the Connecticut Urban Forestry Working Group (today’s Connecticut Urban Forest Council, Inc.).
Fred Borman and Jeffrey Campbell formed the nucleus of the state urban forestry program as they were able to devote significant time to urban forestry. Jeff served in his position for one and one-half years before taking another job. On March 1, 1991, I began my career with UConn Extension, replacing Jeff. Two years prior I served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Forestry Association.
In my first year I conducted a state-wide urban forestry needs assessment of all 169 cities and towns. (All my survey research has been published and available on the UConn CLEAR/tree warden webpage.) The research clearly informed that tree wardens were unaware of each other, they were ill informed of their duties and responsibilities, and they indicated they would be receptive to education, information, and technical assistance.
Having come from Massachusetts forestry world, I had worked somewhat with the Massachusetts Tree Wardens and Foresters Association. This organization was formed in 1911 by Dr. George Stone, a professor of arboriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I felt Connecticut tree wardens would benefit from having their own organization for educational purposes. Also, and more importantly, I felt it critical to develop a professional network of tree wardens, deputy tree wardens, and others.
Fred and I discussed my idea. Fred had conducted one or two workshops for tree wardens prior to my arrival and had become familiar with tree wardens. He liked the idea and suggested I pitch it with the Connecticut Urban Forest Council, which was charged with new (not already existing) urban forestry efforts. The Council agreed. I broached the plan with my UConn Extension department head, who also agreed. As a result, I conducted a mail survey of tree warden practices. In the survey, I asked if tree wardens would be receptive to a state-wide organization for tree wardens. Ninety percent agreed. I then asked if that specific survey recipient would be willing to join and/or serve as a founding board member; there was a sufficient number of positive responses.
The first organizational meeting of the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut was held March 3, 1992, at the Middlesex County Extension Center, Haddam, Connecticut. I organized this initial meeting around a morning hazard tree assessment workshop. Fred and Dave Schroeder assisted. In those years, I received an annual grant from the Division of Forestry in my role as the state urban forestry volunteer coordinator and used a portion of this to pay for a speaker and for lunch. About 30 people attended the workshop. Later that afternoon, I facilitated the first organizational meeting. At this meeting, more than a dozen tree wardens agreed to serve as an organizational board member. This board met and elected Larry Cooper, Greenwich Tree Warden, as the first president. Others stepped forward as the other officers. (I have the records from these first few organizational meetings.) I few years later, I went through the Internal Revenue Service process of formally incorporating the association as a (IRC 501 (c)(3) charitable organization.
I am proud and happy the organization has not only survived, but, in fact, has flourished in its first 25 years. There were dozens of times when I did not think the association would survive, especially during the first few years. The success is due to the numerous board members who devoted much time and energy to the association’s success and to people from dozens of cooperating organizations, agencies, and institutions for their aid and support.
What is the role of the Tree Warden?
Each municipality in the state of Connecticut is required to have an appointed Tree Warden who may in turn appoint any number of Deputy Tree Wardens as necessary. The Tree Warden is responsible for managing trees in public spaces and along roads with public safety as the top priority, but at the same time balancing the environmental and aesthetic benefits of trees. Chapter 451 Sec. 23-59 of the Connecticut General Statutes further defines the roles and qualifications of a Tree Warden.
Thanksgiving tree planting
Each year the Tree Wardens' Association of Connecticut selects a community to be the recipient of the "Thanksgiving Tree". The donated tree is planted in a different town and county from year to year in a location of significance. This gift is the Association’s way to say thank you to all our Towns’ for all that we as Tree Wardens have received throughout the year. Additionally, this gift helps us to educate the public as to the mission of the Tree Wardens' Association and our responsibilities working for the municipalities that we serve. Communities that wish to be considered for the next Thanksgiving Tree Planting should contact Kevin Kelly (email@example.com).
The TWAC Annual Meeting is held each year in June. This is a time for the election of officers and the recognition of the recent Tree Warden School graduates. This fun social event is an opportunity to update our membership and network with colleagues.
President of TWAC and Director DPW for the Town of Hebron
Vice-president of TWAC and Director of DPW for the Town of Watertown
Acting Treasurer and Director of DPW for the Town of Southbury
Secretary and Tree Warden for the City of West Haven
Board Member and Tree Warden, Wethersfield
Board Member and City Forester, Hartford
Board Member and Tree Warden, Director DPW East Hartford
Board Member and Tree Warden, Wesport
Board Member and Tree Warden, Director DPW Cromwell
Board Member and Tree Warden, Middlefield