April 24th, 2014
By Stephanie Choate
A new town project aims to celebrate the birth of each new Williston resident with the gift of a tree, so families can compare the spreading leafy limbs with the unfurling of their child’s life.
“Sustainable Williston is working on a pilot project with the goal of celebrating the arrival of a child in the community by giving a tree to the parents to plant on their property,” said Marie-Claude Beaudette of Sustainable Williston.
Beaudette said she was inspired by her own experience in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, a town in Quebec with a birth tree program dating back 20 years.
“My family received a tree to welcome my son to the community,” she said. “What a symbolic gift to give to a new family in town.”
Beaudette said her family frequently visits her son’s tree, now mature, when they are in the area.
Families with new children would register for the program, and the planting would take place in the fall. Sustainable Williston hopes to host a celebration day, where the trees are handed out. Families with new children would meet each other, celebrate their babies and learn how to plant and maintain their tree.
“Sustainable Williston believes that inviting parents to plant native trees on their property will instill a sense of community pride, have positive impact on wildlife and contribute to a cleaner and better environment for all residents,” according to project information. “Taking the responsibility to help the tree grow and provide tender loving care is an example of good stewardship that supports sustainability in the community. It offers today’s children as well as future generations a place to live and grow in harmony with nature.”
Williston’s annual birth rate in the past six years has been between 52 and 66 children, according to Beaudette.
Gardener’s Supply in Williston has already agreed to provide the trees for 2014, and Sustainable Williston is working to apply for a grant from Vermont Urban Forestry. Families could choose between four trees and two shrubs—Red Osier dogwood, silky dogwood, elderberry, red maple, service berry, Northern white cedar or balsam fir. The trees and shrubs would each be 4 to 5 feet tall.
“Part of our mission is to encourage people to garden and giving back to our community,” said Meredith White, retail marketing supervisor at Gardener’s Supply Company. “This project is very local to us. It will help the people of Williston and also help beautify the town. It fits with our mission and it’s also a nice project.”
Beaudette said Green Mountain Compost has also agreed to donate compost to help support the project.
Beaudette presented the plan to the Selectboard earlier this month, hoping to gain town support.
“I love the concept and I can see how it would be really meaningful to watch the tree grow as the child grows,” said board member Debbie Ingram, though she asked how families who don’t own homes and yards in which to plant the trees could be accommodated.
Beaudette said Sustainable Williston would like to be able to provide trees for renters, but it’s a maintenance issue—as a small organization, they don’t have the manpower to water and care for the young trees.
Ingram suggested trying to find a landscaping company that would donate its services, caring for the trees. Any interested companies can contact Beaudette at email@example.com.
The Selectboard voted to allocate up to $1,000 from the board’s discretionary fund to promote the program through fiscal year 2015.
Interested parents with new family members can learn more and register for the program at www.sustainablewilliston.org.