OnLogic donates to BOB

In early March, Branch Out Burlington! was selected by OnLogic as the recipient of their quarterly employee nominated donations.  Each quarter,  OnLogic employees nominate organizations for a $1,000 donation that aligns with their  quarterly mission. This quarter their mission is Carbon Reduction.

Of all the amazing organizations that were nominated, they  selected Branch Out Burlington as this quarter’s winner!

OnLogic is a tech company in South Burlington Vermont that works with global leaders in a variety of industries to develop computing solutions that outsmart the world’s most complex technology  challenges.

Emerald Ash Borer and the Threat to Burlington’s Trees

A few weeks ago the presence of emerald ash borer, (EAB) was confirmed in Vermont for the first time. While its arrival here has been anticipated for several years, the hope was that we would have more time before having to begin to implement a strategy in Burlington for the long-term management of this devastating exotic insect pest.

Emerald ash borer first appeared in the United States in 2002 near Detroit Michigan. It is believed to have been brought into the country in wooden packing crates from Asia. The adult emerald ash borer is a small metallic green beetle about a half inch long that is known to attack all native species of ash in North America. The adults feed on the leaves of ash before depositing eggs on the bark of the tree. Upon hatching, the larvae burrow through the bark and into the inner bark layer or cambium of the tree. There they feed on the phloem and outer xylem forming s-shaped galleries and essentially disrupting the vascular system of the tree causing canopy dieback, rapid decline, and eventual death of the tree. The rapid rate of reproduction of the beetle can lead to very high population levels in a few years following the initial infestation and trees can be killed within two years if heavily infested. For more information on the life cycle of EAB, its identification, and the signs and symptoms of infestation go to

Despite extensive efforts to contain and eradicate EAB in Michigan when it first was detected, the insect has prevailed and has devastated ash populations across the mid-west and northeast killing millions of trees and costing millions of dollars. EAB has been detected in 32 states and 3 Canadian provinces.

The confirmation of EAB in Vermont has significant implications for the City of Burlington both financially and aesthetically as ash currently accounts for about 10 percent of the total 12,000 plus trees in our inventory which includes trees along streets, in parks, and in cemeteries. This figure does not include ash in woodland habitats such as forested parkland or areas along the bike path.

An EAB management plan has been developed by the former City Arborist, Warren Spinner that outlines management options and provides cost estimates for each option based on the total number of ash currently in the city inventory. The location, as well as the current condition of all ash in the inventory, has been updated and will be a valuable tool moving forward as we begin to make decisions to implement various strategies.

Management options outlined in the management plan include closely monitoring city ash trees for signs or symptom of EAB, proactively removing a certain percentage of ash in the current inventory, primarily those that are in the poorest health, and planting new trees in their place, and treating healthy high value trees with an approved insecticide prior to infestation to protect them from borer attack. Removals and replanting or protective treatment both result in significant expense that far exceeds the current annual budget for the ongoing management of Burlington’s urban trees and each option will likely invoke an emotional debate by those advocating for or against each option. Funding of implementation of the EAB management plan may require additional funding outside of the annual budget for tree maintenance and funding for long-term plans to treat and retain healthy trees may be achieved in part by an appeal to private citizens to ‘adopt a tree’ and provide financial assistance for its long-term treatment.

Ultimately, whatever plans are implemented, it will likely be a combination of strategies that strives to balance potential environmental impacts and budget limitations, as well as the support of the city administration and the public.

While ash currently make up a significant percentage of the city’s tree inventory, it is worth noting that sound management strategies by the former City Arborist over the last two decades have served to significantly diversify the number of tree species in the city’s inventory and no new ash have been planted in the city since the arrival of EAB in Michigan in 2002. As a result, Burlington is far better positioned to manage the impacts of EAB than it was to recover from the loss of elms throughout the city that fell victim to Dutch Elm Disease in the past several decades.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be scheduling time to meet with city officials, attend neighborhood planning assembly meetings for each ward, and meet with other interested community groups to further educate them on EAB and outline in more detail the management strategies and their relative costs, as their feedback may help to direct decisions surrounding the implementation of management options for EAB. I will also be researching the EAB management plans of various communities throughout the region who have been actively implementing their plans for the past several years to gain a better understanding of what strategies have proven to be most effective, as well as what creative strategies have been successful in aiding in the financial support of their plans.


VJ Comai
Burlington City Arborist
April 10, 2018



V.J. Comai hired as City Arborist for Burlington

V.J. is a native Vermonter, growing up in the town of Readsboro at the southern border of the state. He attended the University of Vermont where he earned a BS in Community Forestry and Horticulture from 1984-1988. For the 24 years following graduation he managed the South Forty Nursery in Charlotte, Vermont where he field grew trees and shrubs for the wholesale market in Vermont.

Upon phasing out the nursery, V.J. spent a summer working as consulting arborist for an engineering firm overseeing Vtrans projects that involved new tree plantings. For the three years leading up to his hiring as City Arborist he worked as an arborist representative with Bartlett Tree Experts managing residential and commercial properties throughout the state diagnosing  and assessing the health of landscape trees and shrubs and providing recommendations and services to address related problems.

V.J. is a certified arborist through the International Society of Arboriculture, (ISA) and is Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through the ISA. He is a current member of the New England Chapter of the ISA and a long-time member of Green Works, the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association. He has served on the Green Works board of directors for 16 years and served as president for four of those years. He is also a former member of the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council.

Throughout his professional career he has obtained hundreds of hours of continuing education in the field of arboriculture through technical workshops and seminars. He has also shared his expertise and experience extensively with community groups and industry professionals through presentations in seminars and hands-on workshops. In addition he currently serves as an advisor to the Charlotte tree warden and volunteer tree group. V.J. lives in Charlotte with his wife and has 4 grown children and two step children.

Branch Out Burlington welcomes VJ to his new post and looks forward to working with him.

City Arborist, Warren Spinner, retires after 35 years

A Celebration of Burlington’s Beautiful Forest and the Arborist who helped it to Thrive

Sadly for us all and Burlington’s trees, Warren Spinner, Burlington’s arborist, hung up his pruners, loppers and saw on Friday, August 18, 2017, retiring after over 35 years of service to the Burlington Parks Department. Burlington is graced with thousands of trees along its streets and in its parks. Warren planted many of them and has been giving them the TLC they needed to help them thrive. The Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department and Branch Out Burlington! co-hosted an event to celebrate Warren’s accomplishments and thank him for his dedicated service. Branch Out Burlington! will miss his steady hand and clear head, but we hope he will continue to play a role in our organization in the future. A wooded section of Oakledge Park overlooking the lake has been designated “Warren’s Woods” in his honor. It features his favorite tree in Burlington, a large shagbark hickory, and not far away is his second favorite tree, a 200-year old white oak along the shore.

A video produced by Dan Cahill of the Burlington Parks Dept. featuring Warren and what he means to those from the Burlington and beyond can be viewed at:

In addition, the Burlington Free Press did a cover story on Warren that can be accessed at:  Burlington Free Press Story


Burlington Conservation Newsletter

Six times a year, Burlington Conservation Newsletter will post events and news about what’s happening in Burlington’s wild places. You can join area naturalists on seasonal walks-tracking wildlife, spotting birds, savoring wildflowers or pondering geology. Or go on a hunt for clues of Burlington’s land use history like fence posts and quarries.

There is a sign up for the email list on this web page:

To access the blog click here:

Arms Forest

200 year-old red oak tree at the edge of the Arms Forest property boundary. Photo: Sean Beckett

The old forest landscape of the “Arms Grant” rewards visitors with rare natural communities and brims with clues of centuries of land use history. Visitors will find an extensive trail network lined with unusual plants, glimpses of deer and fox, and old farm roads shaded by rich canopies of centurion oaks. A hidden quarry even connects us to a Burlington that was once the national center of marble manufacturing. A rare gem in the necklace of Burlington’s open landscapes, this 30-acre park is located in the New North End’s largest area of contiguous undeveloped lands, nestled between Rock Point and the Intervale floodplain across North Avenue.

Winter Seminar: February 19th, 2017

Edible Landscaping: Fruit, Nuts and Berries for your Vermont Yard. Presented by Jacob Holzberg-Pill. UVM Aiken Center, Room 102, 4:00 pm

Discover the best trees and bushes for turning your yard into a delicious beautiful landscape. Join us to learn about cold-hardy, low maintenance, productive and tasty plants you can grow at home. Many of these uncommon fruits are as handsome as they are delectable. You will leave this lecture excited for your future abundance.

Jacob Holzberg-Pill’s work as an educator has centered on agroecology, nature connection and holistic land stewardship. He holds graduate degrees in Education and Forest Ecology, and most recently co-founded Dig In Farm, facilitating regenerative agriculture programs for young people. He loves growing harvesting and eating fruits, nuts and berries. Lately he has been enjoying working to perfect his flourless chocolate cake recipe and tracking foxes in the snow.

Click here for slides from Jacob’s talk. (pdf – 9.5 M)

Free Tree Pruning Workshop

Saturday July 9th, 2016
10am – 12pm
UVM Horticulture Farm, 65 Green Mountain Drive, South Burlington, VT.
Proper pruning is important to ensure the long-term structural integrity of your trees.  Properly pruned trees are not only more aesthetically pleasing, but stronger as well.  Pruning young trees can significantly reduce the likelihood of limb or structural trunk failure as the tree matures. Join us for a FREE workshop that will cover different types of pruning, proper pruning techniques, and how to determine when and what tool will meet your pruning needs.

This workshop will be led by VJ Comai, Arborist Representative with The Bartlett Tree Expert Company and lifelong steward of Vermont’s trees.

This workshop is free but space is limited to 20 participants.  Register by visiting

This is a hands-on workshop that will take place outdoors.  Please dress for the weather and bring your own bypass pruners (let us know if you don’t have a pair to bring).

This workshop is co-sponsored by the VT Urban & Community Forestry Program and Branch Out Burlington, Burlington’s citizen tree stewardship group.

Branch Out Burlington! donates tree in memory of Richard Tom

Branch Out Burlington! donated a tree that was planted in Hinesburg in the memory of Richard Tom. The tree was planted at the corner of Silver Street and Route 116, by Andrea Morgante, local landscaper and member of the Hinesburg selectboard and John Williams, vice-president of Green Mountain Bicycle Club and friend of Richard’s.

On April 26th Richard Tom was tragically killed by a car as he rode his bicycle near his home in Hinesburg. Richard was an avid cyclist and was well-known by members of the biking community. Tom worked at Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness in South Burlington for more than 10 years, and he most recently worked at VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. Tom rode his bicycle around the world, working at one point in France. Many said he lived to ride his bicycle and he was a generous and compassionate friend.


Spring is nearly here!

Soon we will all be planting trees, including the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department along Burlington’s streets. Each spring Branch Out Burlington! offers a Tree Keeper Training for anyone who cares about trees. The training session is led by the most experienced urban forester in Vermont—Warren Spinner, Burlington’s city arborist.