Branching Out: Branch Out Burlington Welcomes Essex Junction

Summer is upon us, and our Village landscape has been transformed as life re-emerges on our streets. In the warmth, dog walkers are taking longer routes than they did a few months ago, young families are heading to Maple Street pool, and couples are enjoying an early evening stroll. On a hot day, they might linger a bit below a shade tree, the dense foliage of the canopy providing respite from the sweltering heat. A bird’s song might entice them to peer up into the canopy where the branches of one tree extends and intermingles with its neighbor.  What they cannot see but is worth taking time to ponder, is what is happening below ground--a complex network of roots extending even further, feeding and sustaining these shade-giving giants.  

The volunteers of Branch Out Burlington (BOB) are the roots that have sustained this organization’s significant impact on the City of Burlington’s landscape. BOB’s mission is to “promote a vision of a city graced by a variety of beautiful and healthy trees, and a citizenry actively involved with the perpetual expansion and preservation of our urban forest.”  At their Burlington Community Tree Nursery at the UVM Horticulture Farm, they have raised over 2000 trees, and now approximately 1500 of these grace the streets of Burlington and contribute to a vital urban forest.

Branch Out Burlington’s commitment to promoting and nurturing the urban forest has recently branched out beyond the City of Burlington. The organization has generously given the Village of Essex Junction space at its nursery to grow trees for our own public spaces. The ability for Essex Junction to grow its own trees is a significant cost saving to taxpayers. When the Village buys a tree from a commercial nursery, it can cost over $300 per tree. In contrast, it costs well under $100 to plant and raise a tree at the Community Tree Nursery. 

This spring the Essex Junction Tree Advisory Committee joined Branch Out Burlington and its many volunteers on its annual tree planting day. Every year it is a festive event with music, food, and shared missions. At this year’s event over 200 trees were planted and two rows of 28 trees were designated for planting in the Junction. Some of these trees include a variety of maples, river birch, tree lilac, hackberry, and crabapple.

Like the tree roots intertwining below the surface, connections among neighboring communities help to build a greater foundation for each.  At a time when communities have fewer resources to deal with emerging challenges like repairing aging infrastructure and dealing with the detrimental effects of climate change, the collaboration among communities is ever more critical. One issue that the Essex Junction Tree Advisory Committee has already begun to plan for and to address is the inevitable arrival of Emerald Ash Borer. This pest can decimate a community’s ash trees in just a few years, requiring a potentially costly replanting program. This plan includes the removal of potentially infected ash trees and the planting of more diverse species. Thanks to the support of BOB, some of the costs can be mitigated as the village begins to raise trees at the Burlington Community Nursery.

Throughout the year, Branch Out Burlington needs the support of its volunteers to care for their young trees by fertilizing, weeding, mulching and pruning. The Essex Junction Tree Advisory Committee is also seeking volunteers committed to supporting our urban forest through serving on the tree committee and/or helping to nurture these future members of our Village landscape at the Burlington Community Nursery. If you are interested, please contact the Nick Meyer (Chair of the Essex Junction Tree Advisory Committee) at nmeyer52@ aol.com or Darby Mayville (Essex Junction Village Office, Community Relations Assistant) at darby@ essexjunction.org.    

By Rich Boyers, Essex Junction Tree Advisory Committee