Photo: Tony Giberson

“Pensacola will soon know the location, size and health status of every tree on city property.

Over the next seven weeks, crews from the consulting firm Geosyntec will be in city parks and along city streets cataloging every tree into a new database.

City Arborist Kris Stultz told the News Journal the database will give the city insight into the city’s tree canopy that it has never had before.

‘It’s a very nice load of information to have because now we can truly manage the forest that we have here,’ Stultz said. ‘Right now, as a general idea, we don’t know what we have. We don’t know what condition it’s in. This will give us a very good volume of data that we can start being proactive…’

The total cost of the survey is $119,000 and will record every tree in city parks and city-owned rights of way.

Once the survey is complete, anytime a city worker performs work on a tree or plants a new tree, it will be documented in the city’s database…

Stultz said the database can be used to target where new trees are needed to plant in city parks and along city streets, as well as fully document the labor the city puts into maintaining its tree canopy.

For example, Stultz said there are lots of Laurel oaks that have a much shorter lifespan than other oak trees. ‘They don’t live longer than about 70 years,’ Stultz said. ‘Once they get to a certain size, we’ve got start looking and say hey, it’s getting about time we need to start thinking about removing this tree and replacing it with other trees to keep the forest at a continual density.’

Some tree species are more susceptible to storm damage than others, and with the data in hand, city officials can prioritize where storm assessments can begin based on the type of trees in an area, Stultz said…

‘An inventory is useless usually three years after it’s taken, unless it’s been updated,’ Stultz said.

Stultz said he hopes the software included in the database will allow the inventory to be updated by almost any city employee conducting work or even members of the public.

The software that updates the database can run on a tablet and has been designed to be updated by someone who may not have a lot of experience with trees.

Stultz said he could see a community group or a gardening club opting to get access to the software from the city and spend a weekend updating the tree inventory in their neighborhood park.

‘That’s the other beauty of this system is the simplicity to it,’ Stultz said. ‘Once you have the initial inventory, updating it is fairly simple.'”

— Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal

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Citizens for a Scenic Florida