Presented at the Arb Expo September 14 at the Guelph Arboretum by Sean Fox.
This year, the Guelph Urban Forest Friends are introducing the inaugural Henry Kock Award for Tree Stewardship. Many knew Henry very well, and for those that never had the chance to meet him before his passing in 2005, you will no doubt have heard many of the stories about his dedication to growing, protecting and advocating for trees, forests and our natural environment. Henry was cherished for his wisdom, integrity and mentorship, and each year we honour another member of our community that embodies these same characteristics toward their stewardship of our trees.
For our inaugural award, GUFF would like to recognize professional arborist, Doug Steel.
Doug grew up in Guelph, and after briefly considering a career in welding through attendance at Conestoga College, he knew that working with plants was his true calling. He soon switched paths and enrolled in the horticultural diploma program at the University of Guelph. Doug complemented his education with a position at Groen’s (now Verbinnen’s) Tree Nursery where he operated equipment and did field digging of trees that would eventually find new homes across the province. Along with his studies, Doug also began volunteering here at the University of Guelph Arboretum, where he met Henry Kock, and had his eyes further opened to the world of trees. Doug’s path continued with a summer position on the grounds staff at the University of Guelph Arboretum, followed by a job on the forestry crew at the Grand River Conservation Authority. These experiences soon led Doug to realize that what he really wanted to do was be IN the trees, caring for their health and well-being. He then decided to enroll at Fleming College, where he graduated from their Arboriculture program. Following graduation, he spent some time working for Maple Hill Tree Services, then spent some time in British Columbia working with really big trees. His experiences eventually led him back Guelph, where he’s been operating his own business, Full Circle Tree Care, for nearly 20 years.
What has always set Doug apart with the work that he does is his exceptional knowledge (he’s long been a mentor to other arborists about how to best perform difficult surgical operations on trees) and his dedication to carrying out his procedures with care, integrity and the consideration of the health of the trees first and foremost. Among the thousands upon thousands of trees Doug has cared for during his career, his expertise has been trusted to work with a 250+ year old heritage white oak in Oakville, and Canada’s last remaining wild and endangered cherry birch trees in the Niagara region. And, if all of this work wasn’t already enough, Doug has also long been a donor of time and money for many tree stewardship initiatives around the province. On any given day, you might catch him volunteering for the International Society of Arboriculture, planting trees as part of a community event, serving as a judge for the Ontario Tree Climbing Championships, or volunteering his own tree climbing skills to help with programs such as the Arboretum’s Elm Recovery Project, where he traveled the province with Henry to ascend large elm trees.
For all of this, and in recognition of his sustained commitment to the stewardship of trees and the health of our urban forest, we are proud to recognize Doug Steel as our first recipient of the Henry Kock Award for Tree Stewardship.