Tuesday - Feb 28, 2017

Asheville Tree Map crowd-sources survey of city’s trees


Autumn has arrived in full, and in Asheville that means admiring the brightly colored fall foliage. There’s no shortage of trees for leaf-lookers to soak in autumn’s display. And as long as our attention is on trees, it is a great time to dive into the Asheville Tree Map, an online crowd-sourced tool that seeks to identify and map trees in city and provide easily searchable info on the city’s tree stock.

Customized by the city’s Information Technology Services and the Tree Commission from open source software, the online map is designed to increase knowledge of trees in the area, highlight their benefits to the community and enhance the way we think about trees.

The tree map lets users search and find trees at their favorite locations

“The tree map is an exciting way to get people engaged with tree issues, and the user-friendly concept seems to inspire people to check it out,” says Tree Commission chair Mike Kenton. “For anyone interested in tree ID, assessing the health of their tree or a tree they care about, and especially learning about the environmental and financial benefits of trees in the Asheville area, it’s an excellent tool.”

Asheville Tree Map allows any user to log the location, type and size of trees in their area, adding to data already supplied by others in the community. On the flip side, users can search the ever growing tree database, search for types of fruit or flowering trees and view the environmental impact of Asheville’s tree population. Compiled numbers show the most common trees and individual markers show each tree’s characteristics and facts like how much air pollution each tree removes.

Essential numbers, like the positive environmental impact of trees, is updated on the tree map as new data is added

“There are enough trees in the city limits, from street trees to those in our back yards, that it would be impossible for one person to log all of them,” says city GIS Analyst Dave Michelson. “This is an excellent example of where crowd sourcing can work for the benefit of everyone. The more people involved, the better the map.”

In all, the map currently identifies information on 6,319 trees in and around Asheville. Many of those have been logged by the city’s arborist Mark Foster. Additionally, the Tree Commission and a group of volunteers celebrated the soft launch of the technology in March with a tree mapping party at Riverside Cemetery, logging some 100 trees. The commission hopes that more such parties will evolve from Asheville’s community as people begin to explore the application.

“Asheville’s Open Tree Map offers unparalleled opportunities to visualize and manage our urban forest,” said Commission member Amy Kemp. “It is not only supportive of the City’s tree management activities but offers the ability to calculate the economic and environment impact of the city’s trees, whether on public or private property.”

Because the Asheville Tree Map was developed using already available open-source software, Michelson said that customizing an Asheville-specific application took less staff time and effort that starting one from scratch. Michelson said that IT Services is also keeping an eye out for mobile app options to expand the tree map onto hand-held devices.

To access the Asheville Tree Map, go to http://ashevilletreemap.org.

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