Dedicated Volunteer Rich Sussman Knocks It Out of the Park

The next Docent Training class starts soon in January 2022. To give you more insight into the program, we’d like to introduce you to one of our most dedicated “Certified Volunteers“, Rich Sussman. Being designated as a CV or Certified Volunteer means that a volunteer has completed specialized training and is especially skilled to complete a technical task. More about becoming a Docent or our other CV roles is available on our Volunteer Pathways page.

Meet Rich Sussman


Rich Sussman has been a volunteer Docent leading tours of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum Eastside Trail even before the concrete was finished being poured. Rich was in the first Docent Training class in 2012. Since then, Rich has become one of our most popular Docents. You can easily spot his tall frame topped by a ball cap – a rotation of his passions, including Michigan, baseball, and Trees Atlanta – followed by a jovial group of tour participants walking behind him.

Rich has lead over 100 tours for Trees Atlanta and educated and delighted hundreds of people as he confidently shares horticultural and historic information about the Eastside Trail arboretum, often including interesting trivia about the Eastside’s baseball history and his expertise as a Master Gardener. He leads Saturday morning tours year round, and his “Sunset Tours” in the summer typically fill up as soon as they are made available. He is often praised for his congeniality and is a frequently requested Docent for our scheduled private tours.

I Love Being a Volunteer Docent

Written by: Rich Sussman, Trees Atlanta Volunteer Docent


Bee hotels, fringe trees, kudzu, the Panama Canal, the Atlanta Crackers, overcup oaks, Tiny Doors, Tony Hawke, and the Atlanta Skateboard Park. These are just a few of the reasons that I love being a volunteer Docent for Trees Atlanta. I lead walking tours of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum on the Eastside Trail. Even after nine years of leading tours on this BeltLine segment, I am still learning new things and meeting interesting people of all ages. 

What a wonderful opportunity to share what I’ve learned about the city I’ve called home for nearly 48 years!

That opportunity came in 2012, when Trees Atlanta reached out to the Central Fulton Master Gardeners to see whether any of us Master Gardeners would be interested in becoming docents leading tours on the soon-to-be-opened Eastside BeltLine Arboretum. I jumped at the chance. After six weeks of intensive training, which also involved identifying each tree on the route, and finally, in February 2013, after conducting a cold, soggy “Beta” tour, I was ready. Except for the hiatus that resulted from precautions against COVID,  I have been giving tours ever since.

Several years ago, I initiated weeknight Sunset Tours. These have turned out to be especially gratifying for me and a wonderful way for people to enjoy the BeltLine during early evening hours when the heat of summer turns down a bit. It is a less crowded time on the BeltLine thus allowing tour participants a chance to wander at a leisurely pace. They can also complete their journey by having an after-tour dinner or a drink at one of the many restaurants that have popped up along the BeltLine over the years.  

One thing that is constant is that the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum is always changing: there are new plantings of trees and shrubs, eroded hillsides have been stabilized, and areas once covered by kudzu and other invasive species have been cleared and replaced with native plants and flowers. I pass all this information on to tour participants, who are eager to learn and seem to enjoy the tour. 

And what about the Panama Canal?  Join me one day soon to find out its connection to the Atlanta Beltline!


View our Calendar to register for one any of our Tree Tours of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum on the Eastside, Westside, Northside, and Southside trails, as well as various neighborhoods and greenspaces throughout metro Atlanta.


Posted: December 1, 2021