What I learned this year…

Author: Shelly Barrick Parsons, Executive Director

Following a commitment made in 2020 to focus on sustainable management practices, Capital Trees launched this blog in May of this year to detail our processes, successes, and challenges.  Capital Trees also adopted a strategic plan in June of 2022 with three program pillars:  Build, Manage, and Educate.  Our blog, our community engagement, and our partnerships to make Richmond a Bee City are all initiatives under our education focus.  We are committed to both teaching others about the importance of urban landscapes and learning from other experts to improve our practices.  As we approach the end of the calendar year and enter a time of reflection, celebration, and preparation for the new year, I’m excited to highlight what I have learned this year through the blog and our work in the community.  

Communities care about greenspaces

When public landscapes are well cared for, communities take notice, take pride, and take action.  We are grateful for the many neighbors who formally volunteer with us (see more below).  We also notice that many of our frequent visitors also informally take responsibility for the Low Line by picking up trash when they visit.


Sustainable management builds community

Our sustainable management efforts seek to eliminate the widespread spraying of synthetic herbicides and managing urban landscapes without those products requires many hands and hours.  We are grateful for a strong and growing volunteer program led by our Program and Outreach Manager, Lisa Trapp, and Horticulturist, Mary Petres. Last fiscal year, Capital Trees volunteers logged 1112 hours in the gardens, including many hours manually weeding, pruning to reduce the seedbank, and spreading mulch to improve the soil.  Our weekly, private, and community work days bring individuals, families, and communities together to meaningfully serve and meet one another.  We have had nearby neighbors meet each other for the first time at our workdays, connecting over shared commitment to urban greenspace.  

Management matters and communicates values and priorities

Kevin Finto, Board of Trustees Chair and I attended the City Parks Alliance this summer in Philadelphia, Pa.  We attended keynotes, workshops, and mobile tours to learn both about the necessity and value of public landscapes to improve community wellbeing and climate resilience, and about the best practices for caring for landscapes with sustainable practices.  In particular, we learned that how an organization manages public landscapes communicates values and priorities to and about the community surrounding the space.  In other words, poorly cared for greenspaces communicate a lack of value for the nearby neighbors and can reduce a sense of safety and wellbeing.  We emerged from the conference with a renewed affirmation of our second program pillar:  Management. We will continue to manage or advise on the management of our completed projects so they remain transformative, sustainable, safe, and welcoming spaces for all people.  

“There is sufficient evidence to suggest that poorly maintained and stewarded spaces have negative impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.”  (Pearsall et al).

You can make a difference

Capital Trees is committed to making Richmond greener and more livable through building public landscapes, sustainably managing completed projects, and educating the community about the value of landscapes under our care.  

By volunteering with Capital Trees you can help improve the quality of life for Richmond residents and the climate resilience of the city as a whole with the simple acts of weeding, pruning, and planting. 

By adopting the practices we have outlined in this blog this year such as:

You can help improve the climate resilience of habitats under your care.

By giving to Capital Trees you can help launch new projects to build and renovate public green spaces throughout Richmond.  We have begun community visioning and planning for a greenspace renovation project at Hotchkiss Field and Community Center.  We are grateful to be working with Richmond Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities and Timmons Group on this developing project plan.  Our internal capacity, thanks to our  Board and contractors,has allowed us to advise on the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Richmond’s Teen and Community Center’s greenspace plans and development. We’re also collaborating on a forthcoming planting plan for a marketplace in downtown Richmond.  We will announce more details in 2023, please stay tuned!  Your contributions to Capital Trees help support our management, our initiatives to increase greenspace in the city, and our advocacy for more greenspace access.  

Thank you!  



  1. Capital Trees Sustainable Management Blog
  2. Bee City USA Commitments
  3. City Parks Alliance, Philadelphia, Pa Press Releases
  4. The Benefits and Costs of Urban Public Landscapes
  5. Donate to Capital Trees
  6. Volunteer with Capital Trees
  7. Capital Trees 2021-2022 Annual Report

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