Tree training: Become an arboreal activist!

 "I wish I was a despot that I might save the noble, beautiful trees that are daily falling sacrifice to the cupidity of their owners... The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder." 
As these words and the 160 native and exotic species he planted and preserved at Monticello suggest, Thomas Jefferson was a passionate advocate for the rights of trees.
We can all be thankful that the trees of Monticello and the surrounding Thomas Jefferson Parkway and Arboretum are out of harm’s way-– for now. But what about their more vulnerable cousins at Pantops, near Route 29, or anywhere where (sub)urban sprawl and neglect are real and deadly threats? 
Finally, those who wish to follow in Jefferson’s preservation-conscious footsteps have a chance to address the plight of trees in and around Charlottesville, thanks to a brand new Tree Steward Training Course being offered at the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and co-sponsored by the Piedmont Center for Horticulture, Trees Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Forestry. Tree stewards are specially trained volunteers dedicated to the preservation and protection of trees, parks, and all public spaces in towns or cityscapes.
The course, coordinated by VCE Master Gardener Peter Warren, consists of 12 separate sessions from January 14-March 22. Classes, taught by a distinguished and varied faculty, range from “Biology, Anatomy, Life Functions” to “Diagnosing Health Problems” and “Construction Damage, Vandalism, and Invasive Plantings.” 
In addition to supporting the work of urban forestry, stewards also work with local neighborhoods on improvement and conservation projects. “I believe all neighborhoods in Charlottesville could benefit from tree steward volunteers,” says Warren, “The idea is that we educate these volunteers and in return they do volunteer work in their home communities as educators or project leaders through their neighborhood associations.”
What about those who cannot fit the course into their schedules, but still wish to increase arboreal awareness? Events such as VCE’s Master Gardener Classes (next class begins in January), the Piedmont Landscape Association’s Annual Seminar (February 13), the Piedmont Center for Horticulture’s Newsletter and Fall Garden Fair, the Tree course at PVCC taught by Ian Robertson, and Peter Hatch’s Tree Walk at Monticello are just a few ways to get involved in Charlottesville’s active horticultural community. 
Warren also reminds us that the VCE provides free information on trees and many other topics every day. “I would ask the general public to be educated consumers,” he urges, “We will provide the answers if they will provide the questions.”
Why not start 2003 by saving a tree– or two, or three?  

The Tree Steward Training Course takes place in 12 sessions from January 14-March 22. All sessions will be held at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Albemarle Office at 168 Spotnap Road in Charlottesville, most on Tuesdays between 9am-noon. Because of its hands-on nature, the program is limited to 25 participants. $25 registration fee. For more information and to register, contact program coordinator Peter Warren at 984-0727 or plwarren@vt.edu.