Award for Design: District Department of Transportation
Award for Education: Ryoko Yamamoto
Award for Leadership: Councilmember Mary C. Cheh
Award for Partnership: The Crispus Attucks Development Corporation
Award for Volunteer Service: Gregg Serenbetz

Award for Design: District Department of Transportation

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The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) does much more than tackle parking, paving and potholes. DDOT has emerged as a local, regional and national leader in innovative green design programs, practices and standards. We recognize them for their groundbreaking advancement of the new Green Infrastructure (GI) Standards, more affectionately known as simply the “Green Book.”

DDOT created the Green Book with a multi-disciplinary team of local and national experts in construction, engineering, landscape architecture and urban forestry. The Book requires that all new development projects incorporate techniques such as water infiltration and bioretention systems, minimum soil volumes for street trees, state of the art tree planting specifications and related green standards that will improve the sustainability, beauty and livability of D.C.’s neighborhoods.

One of the champions of this effort is Meredith Upchurch, Program Lead of DDOT’s Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure Program. Earlier on in her career, Meredith worked with us as Casey Trees’ Green Infrastructure Designer, where she co-authored our award-winning report: “Tree Space Design: Growing the Tree Out of the Box.” All of us at Casey Trees are proud to have one of our own on the forefront of DDOT’s efforts to make D.C.’s historic streets greener and more sustainable for generations to come.

DDOT’s GI standards will lead to vast improvement in how street trees will be planted in the District of Columbia. The GI standards have sparked change within DDOT on how projects are approached, with a realization that green infrastructure is an important component of every project.

Award for Education: Ryoko Yamamoto

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When Ryoko Yamamoto immigrated from Tsuchiura, Japan to Queens, New York eleven years ago, she realized how much she missed having green spaces surrounding her. After residing in New York for only a year, she and her family moved to D.C., which Ryoko described as, “the best decision we could have made.”

Shortly after settling into D.C., Ryoko began studying horticulture and landscape design, which then led her to Casey Trees where she took Tree I.D. classes, Trees 101, and eventually became a Citizen Forester. Ryoko currently works as the School Garden Coordinator at Capital City Public Charter School where she manages the gardens, teaches lessons, keeps healthy beehives and co-operates the School Garden Market. When the school moved locations to Kansas Avenue where there was a large field and courtyard, the first thing Yamamoto wanted to accomplish was planting trees in the space.

Even after helping to coordinate five School Tree Plantings at Capital City PCS for a total of 30 trees, Ryoko still feels there is more to be done in and around the campus, such as removing invasive plant species, and planting more native trees in Fort Slocum Park located behind the school.

Ryoko proves to be an inspiration to the students at Capital City PCS by continuously engaging them in outdoor experiences. She believes that, “these kinds of experiences form a solid foundation of trust on surroundings. Especially in an urban city like D.C., [she] believes cultivating the sense of wonder maintains our goodness at the very core.”

Award for Leadership: Councilmember Mary C. Cheh

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Mary Cheh has been a strong voice for trees and the environment in her past nearly 10 years as Councilmember for Ward 3 in D.C.

Councilmember Cheh’s sincere determination to reach our 40 percent tree canopy goal is abundantly clear in a recent interview Casey Trees held with her. Her commitment spans from her professorship at GW Law, where she works with students on environmental pro bono projects, to the significant legislation she has introduced. Her creation of the Clean and Affordable Energy Act pushes for more green roofs and storm water controls along with other environmental advancements. She, alongside Councilmember Charles Allen, also recently introduced the Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016 which would dramatically increase tree protections and ensure that more trees are planted throughout the city.

Cheh also chairs The Committee on Transportation and the Environment, which maintains public parks and recreational areas in the District.

Award for Partnership: The Crispus Attucks Development Corporation

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Built in 1910 and demolished in early 2000, the site once occupied by the former Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company building is now a vibrant, one-acre community green space we all know as Crispus Attucks Park. But the road from abandoned industrial site to green oasis was neither short nor easy – it took decades of struggle and community leadership.

Wanting to ensure that Crispus Attucks Park was preserved as a community green space forever, the owners of the land – the non-profit Crispus Attucks Development Corporation (CADC), approached Casey Trees in 2014 to see what could be done. After many meetings and negotiations, Casey Trees now holds a conservation easement on the land ensuring it will remain a green space in perpetuity – for the benefit of generations to come.

Will Gomaa, President of the CADC Board, describes the park as, “the result of the efforts of those who have lived in the neighborhood.” Indeed, the entire community has benefitted from the park, not only as a way to get closer with nature but also to get closer with each other.

Read the full story of Crispus Attucks Park.

Award for Volunteer Service: Gregg Serenbetz


Gregg Serenbetz has volunteered with Casey Trees since 2002 and he was in the very first class of Citizen Foresters. He has modestly under estimated the number of events he has attended at Casey Trees, but we believe he has attended over 250 events and donated more than 700 hours.

Fresh out of graduate school and as a new employee at the Environmental Protection Agency in the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds, Gregg began his volunteer service helping to survey street trees around Capitol Hill and Metro Center in Casey Trees’ initial street tree inventory. Since then he has lent his volunteer services to support Citizen Science research projects, numerous pruning and tree care events and environmental education fairs.

But planting trees has really been his calling. Gregg is sometimes the first to show up, and often the last to leave, but always the most thoroughly muddy – he wears his tree planting passion on his sleeves, and all over really. We estimate Gregg has lent a helping hand in planting over 200 trees.

Gregg told us what compels him to come back season after season is — “the knowledge that [he] is making a direct and positive impact on the environment — in the present time but even more so for the distant future!”