Urban Forestry Grants Revitalize Communities

PHOTO: The Delaware Forest Service’s urban forester Taryn Davidson and The Seasons Community Tree Project Manager, Joanie Zang. The community received a $4,486 grant.

Bowers Beach tree planting
PHOTO: Volunteers in Bowers Beach planted 23 trees in a park thanks to a $3,500 grant from Delaware’s urban forestry program.


Photo album available at the Delaware Forest Service’s Flickr page: 2021 Urban and Community Forestry Grants


Video from the Bowers Beach Planting Project

DOVER, Del. — The Delaware Urban and Community Forestry Program has awarded $135,193 for 36 tree projects through its annual grant program, which offers up to $5,000 for projects on public land and community open space. All municipalities, homeowner associations, and certified nonprofits in Delaware can apply. Since it began, the program has provided over 588 grants for more than $1.86 million and planted more than 16,000 trees. The goal is to help communities increase tree canopy and promote the natural benefits of trees: cleaner air and water, increased property values and civic pride, and reduced storm water runoff and flooding.

Grants are made possible by the U.S. Forest Service and state funds and applications are approved by the Delaware Community Forestry Council and U&CF program staff.  Grants are also funded through partnerships with the DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship Nonpoint Source Program and the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy. Priority is given to first-time applicants, Tree Friendly Communities, and municipalities with urban tree canopy resolutions. Applicants must provide a 50-50 cost share match that can be met through volunteer labor, donated materials and services, or cash.  Awards range from $500 to a maximum of $5,000 in one of two project categories, tree planting or tree management, and all projects must take place on public lands.

Many of the urban forestry grant recipients – including the City of New Castle, the Town of Bowers, the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Wilmington, and The Seasons Community in Sussex County – have completed their planting projects this fall. Autumn is an excellent time for tree planting. Temperatures are typically cooler so trees are less likely to be stressed by extreme heat. Fall rains can help trees establish their roots systems. When air temperatures are cooler than the soil, new root growth is encouraged so the tree can have a stronger, better-developed root system for the next spring when the plant begins to grow. Mulching with wood chips also helps retain the soil’s required moisture.

Ron Vukelich is a New Castle resident who’s worked with the city’s Tree Advisory Commission  to revitalize the city’s tree canopy.

“The urban community canopy is useful in so many ways. It’s extremely helpful for the health of the community. It’s adding oxygen and removing all kinds of pollutants. At the same time, it’s making houses look a lot better. So, there’s an aesthetic aspect and a wellness portion to it,” Vukelich said. “Many of these trees were put in 40 to 50 years ago and they just reached a point where they are in need of refurbishing. So, in essence, this whole main street here is in the process of getting a whole new canopy.”

Tink Tocco is the Town of Bowers Parks and Recreation Commissioner, which planted 23 trees in a community open space recently thanks to a $3,500 grant from Delaware’s urban and community program.

“We had a tornado last year that blew down nine trees in one of our parks,” Tocco said. “That gave us a 17 percent tree canopy in Bowers Beach, which is absolutely not enough. And we are a bird-friendly town.” “We approached Taryn (Davidson) and the UCF Program … and they helped us through with the grant to acquire these trees. So it’s nice for everyone to come here and volunteer and step up instead of stepping back. From what I understand, it’s about $23 an hour [that] goes back to a matching grant of $3500. That goes not to the volunteers, but back to the actual project, for their volunteerism… and… we have about 25 people here today.”

Taryn Davidson is the Delaware Forest Service’s urban forester. Along with urban forestry director Kesha Braunskill and other staff, Davidson helps communities apply for grant funding and conducts site visits to assess the best locations and select the most appropriate species for tree plantings.

“The Town of Bowers was awarded a 2021 urban and community forestry grant, so today we came down here and planted 23 trees.” Davidson said. “Everyone from the community is here, which is wonderful. It’s nice to have a lot of helping hands on projects like these. One really good benefit from this project is going to be stormwater mitigation. You have a lot of floods coming in from the water behind us, from the beach, so we planted some hackberries and some cedars, which can do well in flooding zones as well as in drought zones. In case we don’t get a lot of rain one summer, they’re still going to be sustainable here.”

One of the major benefits to the urban and community forestry grant program is how it helps educate residents about trees and their many benefits, while also bringing volunteers together and fostering community spirit.

As Jay Baker, Bowers resident and tree planting volunteer explained, “I learned a lot here today. The forestry staff were explaining how to take care of the level of the roots and the mulching that goes up around it – all the best practices – so it was very educational. I think it’s good that the program included the volunteer hours because that really brought out the community and we got to spend time out here together and have a really deep appreciation for all these trees that are planted now.”

Melissa Kristic is a Bowers resident who also volunteered at the tree planting event: “I just want to do more within the community, just to help out and beautify it. I love the town. Just to be able to make it prettier. We’re making a lot of improvements around here the last couple of years and it’s been nice watching it grow.”

Caroline Dowd, Delaware urban and community forestry program
PHOTO: Caroline Dowd of Delaware’s urban and community forestry program helps plant a tree in Bowers Beach, which received a $3,500 grant to plant 23 trees.


UCF Grants 2021

The U&CF Program partnered with the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy (CC&E) to provide funding for tree planting projects in 11 communities this year. The Climate, Coastal and Energy program has goals that focus on carbon sequestration and trees meet this objective by providing long-term carbon storage. Each tree planted through the grant program will have its carbon values calculated and help contribute to the goals in the state’s climate action plan. Delaware is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program developed as a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia to cap and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector. Money raised through the initiative is returned to participating states to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other consumer benefit programs. In Delaware, the RGGI program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

Taryn Davidson, urban forester
PHOTO: The Delaware Forest Service’s urban forester Taryn Davidson, shows volunteers the proper way to mulch a tree at a recent planting event in Bowers Beach, which received a $3,500 grant to plant 23 trees in its community park.


New Castle trees
The City of New Castle received a $5,000 grant to help plant new serviceberry trees along its Main Street. The trees are part of a multi-year project to increase tree canopy and replace aging trees that have grown too large.


Climate Coastal UCF 2021 

The USDA Forest Service provides funding to plant trees within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Trees help meet goals outlined in Delaware’s Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), which include targeted goals that each of the Bay watershed jurisdictions will take to meet the pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by 2025. These plans consider such things as ecological restoration and sustainability while allowing for greater transparency and accountability for improved performance. The U&CF Program funded two projects for $10,005.

Ches Bay UCF 2021


The U&CF Program partnered with the Nonpoint Source Program (NPS) of DNREC to plant trees in EPA priority watersheds in Delaware. The program aims to address the issue of NPS pollution as it affects Delaware’s numerous waterbodies. Efforts include grant funding, education, outreach, and partnerships with other organizations. Reductions in NPS pollution can be achieved through the incorporation or installation of specific best management practices (BMPs) addressing agriculture, silviculture, construction, septic systems, and hydromodification activities. Tree plantings are a BMP that can help intercept stormwater and nutrient runoff, reduce sedimentation and erosion, and filter pollutants. In FY21, $25,006 was provided to six community groups to fund tree projects that address NPS pollution.

Seasons Community - Sussex County
The Seasons Community planted trees in their community open space thanks to a 2021 Delaware urban and community forestry grant.


Nonpoint UCF 2021

The U&CF Program provides annual funding for projects that meet program goals to reach milestones from Delaware’s Forest Action Plan. Each of the projects funded this year provided trees that were planted in areas to help prevent storm damage, mitigate heat island effects, increase tree canopy and foster appreciation for our urban forests.

Focus UCF 2021
*Grant requests are not final until project completion. All requirements, including cost-share match, must be met before final approval is granted by the U&CF Program.

Smokey Bear in Dover for Fire Prevention Week

Smokey in Dover
Proclaiming “Fire Prevention Week in Delaware”: From left, Dover firefighter Troy Christiansen, Dover Public Library’s Head of Youth Services Susan Elizabeth Cordle, Children’s Librarian Jacqueline McCabe, Captain Chad Knotts of the Dover Fire Department, Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, Smokey Bear, and firefighter David Knight are joined by children who attended a special fire prevention edition of the library’s weekly “Songs and Stories” event.


DOVER, Del. — Smokey Bear joined Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, the Dover Volunteer Fire Department, and the Delaware Forest Service to celebrate “National Fire Prevention Week” at the Dover Public Library’s Songs and Stories event for young children and their families. Governor John C. Carney, Jr. has proclaimed the week of October 3 to 9, 2021 as “Fire Prevention Week in Delaware” and ” to urge all citizens to thank community firefighters, familiarize themselves with the smoke alarms in their home, develop a home fire escape plan, and participate in efforts to prevent fire situations.”

The story time event at the library featured sing-a-longs and stories that highlighted the work of volunteer firefighters and the need to prevent forest fires. Outside the library, children and their families got a big welcome from Smokey Bear and the opportunity to “touch a truck” during a “meet and greet” with members of the Dover Fire Department and the Delaware Forest Service.


Brett McDonald of Dover
Brett McDonald of Dover is in the driver’s seat at the Fire Prevention Week event held at the Dover Public Library.


National Fire Prevention Week:

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) observes National Fire Prevention Week every year to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 blaze that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures, and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into and did most of its damage on October 9, 1871. This year’s theme is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!” – designed to educate everyone about the different sounds the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms make.

Smokey Bear:

Smokey’s motto is “Only you can prevent wildfires.” A wealth of information and resources for all ages are available at smokeybear.com  Created in 1944, the Smokey Bear campaign is the longest-running public service advertising campaign in U.S. history, educating generations of Americans about their role in preventing wildfires. As one of the world’s most recognizable characters, Smokey’s image is protected by U.S. federal law and is administered by the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Ad Council. Despite the campaign’s success over the years, wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical issues affecting our country. Smokey’s message is as relevant and urgent today as it was in 1944. Statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center show that in 2020, more than 53,000 wildfires – or roughly 9 in 10 – were caused by humans.

Dover Fire Dept
From left, Dover firefighter Troy Christiansen and Captain Chad Knotts welcome a young child to visit their fire truck during a Fire Prevention Week event at the Dover Public Library.


National Fire Prevention Week Proclamation



“Saluting Branches” – Arborist Day of Service

Dozens of tree care professionals volunteered at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro for the 7th Annual “Saluting Branches: Arborist United for Veteran Remembrance” event.

MILLSBORO, Del. — Dozens of arborists and professionals from three Delaware tree care companies volunteered for the 7th Annual “Saluting Branches” event by devoting a day to trimming, shaping, and removing hazardous trees from the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro. The Delaware site was one of 40 sites throughout the United States that participated in the event, which attracted more than 3,000 volunteers. Workers from Tri-State Tree Care, Complete Tree Care, and Cypress Tree Care spent their entire day as a way to pay tribute to the veterans and their service.

Jay Ashby, who runs Cypress Tree Care and also serves as Chair of Delaware’s Community Forestry Council, called it a “Great day of service for our resting veterans.”

Joe Shoup from Cypress Tree Care was glad to be back after participating in 2019 but having last year’s event canceled because of COVID-19.

Joe Shoup and Frank Silva
PHOTO: Joe Shoup of Cypress Tree Care with Frank Silva Jr., grounds foreman at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro.

“There was a lot of hazard work. They had a lot of dead wood and a lot of dead trees that needed to be taken down. That first year we were able to get a big chunk of work done and as such the trees looked a lot nicer but they were also a lot safer,” Shoup said. “This year… we’re able to do a lot of reduction pruning on these older, more mature oak trees… If we can get here for the next two, three years in a row, we should have this place up to snuff and there shouldn’t be any more hazards left.”

Frank Silva, Jr., who serves as the grounds foreman for  Delaware’s Office of Veterans Services, is extremely grateful for the professional expertise and dedication that the workers provide.

“These huge old oaks that are several hundred years old, they’re too large for us to take care of. We don’t have the equipment or the manpower to take care of that and we’re not professional arborists,” Silva said.

“It’s very important to us to keep the place looking pretty good as you can see,” he continued. “It’s a place of honor and respect. We’re all veterans… everyone who works for this commission is a veteran, so it’s an important job to us. And all the work that they do really helps out.”

Tree care worker and large oak tree
PHOTO: A tree care professional works on a large oak tree at the Delaware Veterans Cemetery in Millsboro. Workers from three Delaware companies volunteered for the annual “Saluting Branches” event as a day of service to America’s veterans.

Silva estimated that almost 6,000 Delaware veterans and spouses are currently interred at the cemetery, which is why it’s so important they and their families continue to have a well-maintained place of honor and respect when they are laid to rest. The Millsboro veterans cemetery covers about 65 acres, of which about 25 acres is currently in use for burials and interments. The site is expected to grow in the years ahead to accommodate future applications.

Saluting Branches event at Veterand Cemetery in Millsboro

Delaware Wildfire Crew Battles Blazes In The West

PHOTO: From left, Dave Pro of Newark, Jeff Wilson of Clayton, Eddie Boyer of Frederica, and Bradley Melson of Milford are part of the Delaware wildfire crew battling the Harris Mountain Fire south of Cascade, Montana.


CASCADE, Mont. (August 4, 2021) — Delaware’s wildfire crew continues to battle the Harris Mountain Fire in the steep, rocky and mountainous terrain south of Cascade, Montana. The 31,345-acre blaze is currently 20 percent contained, with almost 300 personnel under a Type 2 Incident Management Team from the Northern Rockies to bring it under control

According to crew boss Sam Topper, Delaware’s 20-person Type 2IA crew has been constructing hotline on a critical piece of Division Z and has been working to keep the fire out of the head of Novak Creek. The crew has only four more shifts remaining before returning to the First State next week. The group departed Blackbird State Forest on July 21 and is serving a 14-day assignment.

Delaware also has a new Type 6 engine crew fighting the Cedar Creek Fire, currently 52,030 acres and 25% percent contained, located in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.  The team of three firefighters is led by the Delaware Forest Service’s Todd Gsell and includes Todd Shaffer of Maryland and Andy Ney of Felton.

More photos at the Delaware Forest Service Flickr page

Contact: Kyle Hoyd, Delaware Forest Service, 302-698-4548 or kyle.hoyd@delaware.gov

Dave Pro of Newark
PHOTO: Dave Pro of Newark works the chainsaw to construct a line to slow down the Harris Mountain Fire south of Cascade, Montana. The fire is currently 31,345 acres and 20 percent contained. Delaware’s Type 2IA crew has been constructing hotline on a critical piece of Division Z. The area is extremely rough with steep and rocky terrain. The crew has four more shifts including today.


DES Engine Crew
PHOTO: Delaware’s new Type 6 engine crew, staffed by (from left) engine boss trainee Todd Shaffer, engine boss Todd Gsell, and firefighter Andy Ney, is holding the line, patrolling, and mopping up on the Cedar Creek Fire near Winthrop, Washington. The fire is currently 52,030 acres and 25 percent contained.


Delaware Crew Fighting Montana Wildfire

CASCADE, Mont. (July 27, 2021) — Delaware’s “Diamond State” Type 2IA crew is part of more than 200 personnel fighting the Harris Mountain Fire in Cascade County, Montana. Located in difficult and rugged terrain, the blaze was started by lightning on July 23 and is currently 19,103 acres in size. Managed by a Type 2 Incident Management Team (IMT), the fire is expanding in all directions and burning actively in deep drainages. Multiple crews, engines, dozers, water tenders and air resources are providing structure protection.

The team from the First State is led by the Delaware Forest Service’s Sam Topper and consists of 20 volunteer firefighters from the public and private sector. The group departed Blackbird State Forest on July 21 and will serve a 14-day assignment before returning to Delaware.

Delaware also has a Type 6 engine crew fighting the Cedar Creek Fire, currently 33,462 acres in size and 13 percent contained, located in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.  The team of three firefighters, led by the Delaware Forest Service’s Erich Burkentine, is in the midst of a 21-day assignment. The engine previously served on Southern California’s Dexter Fire.

Delaware wildfire crew Montana
From left, Bradley Melson of Milford, Eddie Boyer of Frederica, and Jim Charney of Felton are part of the Delaware wildfire crew battling the Harris Mountain Fire south of Cascade, Montana. The 19,103-acre blaze was started by lightning on July 23.


Harris Mountain Fire
An aircraft drops retardant to slow the growth of the Harris Mountain Fire near Cascade, Montana.


Cedar Creek Washington
Delaware’s Type 6 engine crew is battling the Cedar Creek Fire in Washington State. The blaze is currently 33,462 acres with 13% containment. (photo by Nikki Testa)


Delaware Type 6 engine Washington
Delaware’s Type 6 engine crew, consisting of Erich Burkentine, Nikki Testa, and Hunter Melson, is fighting the Cedar Creek Fire in Washington State. (photo by Nikki Testa)