Web site tracks trees in The City 

With the click of a mouse, city residents can now locate and learn details about many of San Francisco’s estimated 108,000 street trees.

The San Francisco Urban Forest Mapping Project, www.urbanforestmap.org, is a collaborative effort by software maker Autodesk, the Department of Public Works and the Friends of the Urban Forest to map "street trees," or trees on public property. Conceptualized more than a year ago and donated by Autodesk, the site took about four months to complete and uses Global Positioning System satellite software to map street trees by location, species, planting date, neighborhood, district and the organization responsible for tree maintenance.

"Before, it was hard to find out who is responsible for any given tree. Now you can see right away," said Charlie Crocker, senior geospacial product manager at Autodesk.

Currently, there are about 60,000 trees entered in the database, and Crocker said he is hopeful that the full 108,000 will be entered soon.

Similar to sites such as Wikipedia.com, users are able to "edit" entries on the site — adding and updating the database — because it is "open source" software.

Kris Opbroeck, one of the Web site’s project managers at the Department of Public Works, said the department hopes the Web site will help San Franciscans get involved in "their own domain," as well as put all of the many agencies that care for 108,000 street trees on the same page.

"[The site] is an additional way to make people feel involved in their urban forest. So if you plant a tree and feel like inputting it at the same time — let’s say, if you’ve got a laptop with you — you can see the benefit right away," Opbroeck said.

Daniel Sider, greening "czar" appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2006, said the site will be a vital tool in accomplishing a greening initiative launched by the mayor in 2004 that puts a focus on planting 25,000 new trees by 2009 — something he says The City is already "on track" to do after meeting the annual requirement of 5,000 this year.

Doug Wildman, spokesman for Friends of the Urban Forest, said the Web site has already become a vital tool and will bring city agencies and the public on the same page to maintain trees more effectively.

"Managing street trees is half knowing what we have and having a database full with data from everyone that is associated with street trees," Wildman said, adding that there are over 200 different tree species in The City; about 20 of them are most common.

Wildman also said that Friends of the Urban Forest will conduct a survey of trees this summer to further update the Web site.


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