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Trees Count! Technology

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Technology was a hallmark of the 2005-2006 street tree census. Parks used computer mapping, email, the internet, and handheld computers to recruit volunteers, report our progress and anaylze results, while only ten years ago we relied 100% on paper, copy machines and highlighters.

images of maps

Computer Mapping. In 1998, Parks used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the 1995-1996 census results. We used that information to organize the 2005-2006 effort, creating zones of approximately 300 trees each. These zones served as the organizing unit for the census. Each volunteer was asked to commit to one zone, we customized our recruitment efforts by mapping assigned zones and we provided a custom designed GIS zone map for each volunteer.

Using the most up to date New York City Department of Planning's GeoSupport application, the census data was mapped providing a basis for borough and neighborhood scale spatial analysis in ArcGIS. For example, the mapped census data will allow us to estimate how many additional trees could be planted on every block in all five boroughs.

Trees Count Website

Email. While email is a vital part of any business transaction or public program today, it was still in its infancy during the last census effort. Staff used email extensively to recruit volunteers and communicate with them through weekly updates and other notices.

FoRMS Sample Web Interface
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Website. Parks designed a completely interactive census website where volunteers could:

  • View a training calendar and register for classes;
  • Access resources including the training manual, data collection, forms, and the leaf key;
  • View weekly census updates;
  • Communicate with other volunteers through a facilitated bulletin board;
  • Enter tree census data into an online form;
  • Participate in a volunteer survey.

Handheld computers. Hewlett Packard donated 40 handheld computers. The Davey Resource Groupís professional staff designed a customized database to put on the handhelds that matched the paper data forms so their data could be easily imported into Parksí online database. This bypassed the data-entry phase and saved paper and trees.

Forestry Management System (FoRMS). This fall, Parks will roll out a GIS-based application for tracking our tree inventory and work orders. Using a map-based application for everyday operations will revolutionize how Parks manages our urban forest. By tracking our inventory and work orders within a map of our city, Parks will be able to manage every tree in relation to other trees and infrastructure such as roads, highways and buildings. FoRMS will also allow people to submit and track requests on the Parks website.

Did you know?

  • 20% of the census was collected on handheld computers.
  • The new online forestry management tool will allow users to see individual trees in their neighborhoods, and track requests related to them.