Cooling a Heat Island

With a recent planting of seven trees in the 10th and Page neighborhood, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards kicked off a new effort to increase the tree canopy and combat our city’s heat island problem. Urban heat islands are places where roofs, roads and other structures absorb and re-emit heat from the sun, raising temperatures even at nighttime. Trees, by providing shade and cooling water vapor, help mitigate the heat island effect.

Recent studies have revealed that several parts of the city have less than 15-20% tree canopy, which makes them significantly hotter than surrounding neighborhoods that have more trees. Among them is the 10th and Page neighborhood between West Main Street and Preston Avenue.

Tree Steward volunteers took part in the first planting on November 14. Like our past plantings in the Belmont neighborhood, this effort is providing trees for residential yards, since there is limited public space where trees can be added. Residents in the 10th and Page area are excited to receive the new trees and are spreading the word to their neighbors that CATS is making trees available for the asking, thanks to generous support from the Caplin Foundation, supplemented by our own funds.

Once a resident agrees to receive a tree, the utilities are marked, a proper hole is dug, and the tree stewards gather with the resident and family to plant the tree. A mini demonstration in each planting will make a neighborhood of tree planters. Tree recipients receive a rain gauge to help them decide when their tree needs water and a watering bucket if they lack a hose. In the first planting, free pumpkins from the Ivy Corner Garden Center were used to provide temporary labels for the new trees, which include a Northern Red Oak, a “Princeton” American Elm, a Red Sunset Maple and a Serviceberry.

After several more plantings, the area now has 11 new trees. The Tree Stewards plan to provide up to 10 more trees for the neighborhood and will then roll into a group tree planting effort with the Charlottesville Tree Commission.

Honoring Our Founders

The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards had much to celebrate by the end of October, a month in which we provided new trees to local households, cleaned up public greenspaces, planted new trees in a community park, and paid a special tribute to our founders.

It started with one of our best Fall Tree Sales ever, pictured here. On October 9 at Tufton Farm, our volunteers sold 285 trees and shrubs, raising a record $2,800 for our organization. At the same time, we helped customers select trees that are appropriate for their landscapes and advised them on how to plant, protect and care for their new trees. A huge thank you to the team that managed the logistical feat of making this sale such a success.

Later in the month, the Tree Stewards continued to improve public landscapes in our area, including The Grove at McIntire Park, below. On October 14, with the help of community partners, CATS volunteers weeded and mulched the trees and shrubs we planted earlier on this hillside. All of them are thriving. We also expanded and improved the network of trails through the site.

We devoted two workdays—on October 20 and 21—to weeding and mulching the trees at the CATS Arboretum and nursery at the Virginia Department of Forestry’s headquarters in the Fontaine Research Park. That same week, on October 23, the Tree Stewards planted 17 trees at Darden Towe Park, below, including Willow Oaks (Quercus phellos), Swamp White Oaks (Quercus bicolor), Blackgums (Nyssa sylvatica) and Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), among others. Placed around the dog park and pavilion area, the trees are the beginning of a major reforestation of the park, where many trees have been lost to the emerald ash borer.

And finally, on October 27, we returned to the Arboretum at the Virginia Department of Forestry to dedicate a Hackberry tree (Celtis occidentalis) planted a year ago in honor of the visionaries who set CATS in motion. Our friends at VDOF–including State Forester Rob Farrell, shown here with CATS President Barbara White–joined us for the ceremony.  It included the unveiling of a plaque listing the 14 founders and initial board members who formally established the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards in 2008.


Class for New Tree Stewards Begins

Kudzu at Azalea Park

Unless you are an arborist, forester or otherwise have extensive tree knowledge, volunteers become Tree Stewards by taking our 15-week fall class. It combines online lectures on over 20 tree-related topics – from tree biology to tree risk assessment – with field sessions on tree identification, forest ecology, pruning, planting and controlling non-native invasive plant threats to our forests. The class launched on August 3rd and concludes on November 13.

First field day, just prior to setting out on walks at the Ivy Creek Natural Area to learn how to identify trees using a key and tree features such as leaves, bark and twigs.

Checking in and sampling the refreshments table at the start of the second field day which addressed non-native invasive plant identification and treatment and was held at Azalea Park in Charlottesville.

William Hamersky, a Tree Steward since 2016, describes some of the hand and power tools commonly used to control non-native invasive plants.

Beth Mizell, Program Director at the Blue Ridge Partnership for Regional Invasives Species Management, describes how to treat kudzu, which can be seen behind her on the banks of Moore’s Creek at Azalea Park. Sometimes referred to as “the plant that ate the South,” kudzu is manageable and Beth shares details with new Tree Stewards on a range of treatment options to control this significant threat to our forests.

Although we won’t be offering the class again until next fall, if you are interested in becoming a Tree Steward or would like to learn more about what we do to support urban and rural forests in Piedmont Virginia or volunteering with us, contact us at