Get to Know Your (Other) Neighbors with the Asheville Tree Map, written by Rhys Burns
Even in this time of social distancing, we are being encouraged to spend time outside as long as we are away from other people. Learning about the trees or plants in your yard or neighborhood may be a helpful way to learn and grow. While this map is meant for Asheville you can learn about trees anywhere!
Western North Carolina is well known for our beautiful forests, but the city of Asheville has slowly been losing tree cover over the years. As development continues, there is great public concern that Asheville lacks a strong tree ordinance to maintain the health of our urban forest. Thankfully, there are lots of projects underway to try to protect our precious urban trees! One such endeavor is the Asheville Tree Map, an app that allows folks to map the trees in their neighborhood and city, and monitor changes in urban tree density.
The Asheville Tree Map is an initiative of the City’s Tree Commission. Bob Gale, MountainTrue’s Public Lands Ecologist, served on the Asheville Tree Commission for nine years. He was part of the push for the app, and remembers, “Asheville’s Arborist, Mark Foster, asked our Commission if there was a way we could start inspecting and inventorying the city trees. He had neither the capacity nor budget to go beyond simply maintaining, pruning and replacing street trees. Serendipitously, we learned of this tree app that Philadelphia was using and after some researching and tweaking, we made it happen in Asheville. Getting the public engaged through the app makes the task seem less overwhelming and also empowers residents to help protect our urban forest.”
The treemap is designed to be easy to use. Users can list a tree with no associated data, or they can add any information they may have, from species to size. Others can then add in missing data to flesh out this picture of our urban forest.
A screen shot from the app shows the ability to select a tree (the little green dots) and easily view its species. Clicking on the banner at the bottom will then show any further recorded information, such as size or date planted.
So far the app has hundreds if not thousands of trees mapped, and provided hundreds of Ashevillians with a chance to get to know a different kind of neighbor. And even more than identification, the app can estimate ecosystem benefits provided by the tree.
This large hickory is estimated to save $224 per year- now think about all the trees in town!
While the app has some really cool functionality, it only works if people contribute information. There are many thousands of trees in Asheville that aren’t yet mapped- meaning they can’t be monitored for changes in our overall canopy. You can help this effort by marking the trees around you, and it’s a great chance to get to know your botanical neighbors during this time of social distancing. On your next neighborhood stroll, give it a shot!