Sponsored by the RNeighborWoods program, the Mayor’s Urban Forestry Volunteer Award was created to recognize amazing citizens, for outstanding contributions to Rochester’s urban forest. This year there are four categories for these awards including adult, youth, business, and organization.
2016 Mayor’s Urban Forestry Volunteer Award Winners
- Youth: Ava Masterpole
- Couple: Jeff and Dianne Ellerbush
- Individual: Clifford Hansen
- Business: People’s Coop
These awards will be presented by the City Forester, Jeff Haberman and RNeighbors at OAKtoberfest 2016.
Think of how many trees are in Rochester neighborhoods’ boulevards, indirectly and directly because of the time and talents of these award winners. RNeighborWoods was founded in 2004. Since then we’ve planted 6,806 boulevard trees through the teamwork of RNeighborWoods partners and 5,587 hardworking volunteers.
Ava started planting trees at the young age four at a neighborhood tree planting in 2004 in Kutzky Park. Even at that young age she was a help. We have photographic proof that she held a hose and watered each tree planted. She and her family haven’t missed a community-tree planting event since then and she looks forward helping out different neighborhoods each spring and fall.
“I believe that Rochester’s urban forest is very important because of all the benefits that trees provide,” said Ava. “Trees clean the air, catch rainfall, add character to neighborhoods, and increases value to properties. They are necessary for life in the city. One key that leads success to RNeighborWoods tree planting program is encouraging young people in the community to get involved. They not only learn life long tree planting skills, but also have fun knowing that they are helping the community.
In fall 2013, the community tree planting was in my Kutzky Park neighborhood. That was the first time my sister and I lead a group as Citizen Foresters. It was a special planting for me personally because I have been able to watch these trees grow over the years. One of the great things about my neighborhood is the tree-lined streets. Our plantings will ensure that the arching canopy over the streets will continue for many generations.”
Clifford moved to Rochester in 1992 as an IBM transfer from Endicott, New York. In addition to being a Citizen Forester and group leader at many of our tree plantings he has been secretary of the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society since 2000 and organized the annual Christmas Bird Count. In addition he’s done bird surveys, frog and toad surveys, and dwarf trout lily surveys for the Minnesota DNR for many years. He covered 17 survey blocks for the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas project that ran from 2009 to 2013. More recently he’s been very active volunteering at Quarry Hill Park and Indian Heights Park.
“When I was growing up, my family lived both in neighborhoods that had mature trees and others that lacked them,” Clifford said. “A huge different between the two! I value trees for the shade, visual interest, and bird life they bring to an area.
Rochester can be proud of its RNeighborWoods program. Reasons for its success: willingness to commit funds to improve Rochester’s parks and urban forest; a strong organization with programs like Citizen Forester training and tree planting events to encourage community participation; making the events fun, with treats, group photo, T-shirts; large numbers of high school volunteers for the events. The community tree plantings are such fun events, and it is wonderful to see members of the community coming together to improve their neighborhoods by planting trees.”
Jeff and Dianne Ellerbush
Jeff and Dianne have been to every RNeighborWoods tree planting from the very first. They are some of the very important volunteers who show up early, do the non-glamorous set-up, and help with the registration process. Almost always they are the bright smiling faces that hand out the free t-shirts to the hundreds of volunteers of all ages who show up to help get trees in the ground. “Diane and I believe Rochester’s urban forest is important because of the many positive environmental affects provided by trees and the positive relationships created among neighbors when they share in the task of planting a tree,” said Jeff of what he’s experienced being involved with the tree plantings.
At the first planting they helped with in 2006, they teamed up to plant trees with Century High volunteers Megan and Paige. “We never forgot their names and that day we were mere visitors in the lives of two teenage girls on a Saturday morning,” said Jeff of the memory.
“Diane has handed out T-shirts at every planting and she loves the reactions of the kids. It is surprising how many people have an opinion to share when it comes to a free T-shirt,” said Jeff. RNeighborWoods tree plantings are friendlier (and more organized) events because of the volunteerism, dedication, and cheer of Jeff and Dianne.
People’s Food Co-op
People’s Coop has been donating bananas and other goodies for hungry RNeighborWoods tree planters since opening its doors in downtown Rochester in September 2013. Each planting this usually equals treats for over 150 volunteers that is often devoured within the first hour. We are proud to be able to highlight their ongoing commitment to the Rochester urban forest.
The vision of People’s Food Co-op is to encourage a vibrant, exemplary model of healthy, sustainable, and cooperative living. “The urban forest echoes all of these philosophies,” said Brad Smith, Public and Member Relations Manager. “The urban forest ensures a green community with a healthy active feel. We feel the ongoing success of RNeighborWoods tree plantings are the excitement of volunteers and neighbors as they green their neighborhoods, as well as the visually pleasing and improvement of aesthetics.”
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