Trees: An Asset to Cities
As the City of Ramsey continues to grow, so too does the number of public assets that the City must manage, such as roads, sewer lines, trails, traffic lights, signage, and trees. Just as regular maintenance of personal vehicles is important to avoid unexpected breakdowns and to extend the useful life, tracking and regular maintenance of these public assets is essential in building long-term community sustainability and resilience.
Ramsey is entering an era of significant reconstruction, which will impact not only streets, but other public assets in the road right-of-way. Understanding the condition of these assets is critical to implementation of the City’s Street Maintenance Program, as well as for the sound financial planning and long-term maintenance of the quality of these assets.
Monitoring Our Trees
As a City Planner or Urban Forestry Coordinator, what do you do when a tidal wave of tree disease or pestilence is spreading across nearby municipalities and rapidly approaching your city? The first thing you do is panic. The second thing you do is look at your city’s tree inventory to get a sense for how much of your urban tree canopy is at risk. Don’t have a tree inventory? Time to make one, and fast! A tree survey is essentially an abridged version of a complete tree inventory that aims to provide a picture of the number, type, age, and condition, of trees in a given area, within a reasonable margin of error. With this data, a city is able to get a sense for the diversity of the urban forest, assess benefits and potential risks (such as pests, disease, and structural hazards), apply for grants, and create management plans for future plantings and maintenance.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provided the City of Ramsey with a rapid tree survey in 2010, but many things can happen to a city in eight years! Large-scale development, tree planting, and tree removals have significantly altered the makeup of Ramsey’s urban canopy since that time. Knowing just the top ten genera in Ramsey from 2010 was not cutting it anymore. After undergoing a rigorous application process, the City of Ramsey was approved for inclusion in the University of Minnesota’s Resilient Communities Program, with a project aim of carrying out a tree survey in summer of 2018, to be completed entirely by volunteers!
Utilization of volunteers for city projects provides opportunity for participants to gain new skills and build community connections. Additionally, a study comparing tree identification and condition data collected by volunteers versus professionals, showed that data from well-trained volunteers agreed with professionally-collected tree identification data 90+% of the time! (Bancks, North, & Johnson, 2018) Other studies on the accuracy of volunteer-collected data demonstrate that, when properly trained, volunteers can achieve nearly identical data collection results to those collected by professional personnel (Swanson, Kosmala, Lintott, & Packer, 2016). Through their participation in this survey, volunteers will collect and provide the City of Ramsey with accurate estimates of tree species, diameter categories, condition, and total count of its public trees.
Requirements for volunteer participation in this survey include being aged to at least 18 years, or otherwise accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, and attendance in the volunteer training program. Based on the aforementioned study, and others, completion of the volunteer training was deemed critical for ensuring accuracy in data collection, and is a requirement for volunteer participation.
Interested in participating?
If you would like to volunteer in the Ramsey summer tree survey, please click here for training schedule and details!
Bancks, N., North, E., & Johnson, G. (2018). An analysis of agreement between volunteer- and researcher-collected urban tree inventory data. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, 44(2), 73-86.
Swanson, A., Kosmala, M., Lintott, C., & Packer, C. (2016). A generilzed approach for producing quantifying, and validating citizen science data from wildlife images. Conservation Biology, 30(3), 520-531.