Encinitas branches out with ‘tree tracker’ app
Learning more about the trees that make up the city of Encinitas’ “urban forest” will soon be as easy as clicking on an interactive map.
The city is set to launch “Encinitas Tree Tracker,” a mapping program that is linked to a database of information about the more than 12,000 trees owned and maintained by the city.
The information in the database has been gathered for years, and used by the city for budgeting and maintaining the city’s trees, located along streets, in roadway medians and in parks, said Glenn Pruim, city Public Works director.
The city then decided to use its GIS mapping software to create an interactive map that will share the data with the public. The project did not entail any additional cost, other than the staff time needed to set up the program, officials said.
“We’re trying to share as much information as we can with the public in a way that makes it easy to use,” Pruim said.
Tree Tracker consists of an overhead-view map of the city with icons representing different types of trees, such as deciduous, coniferous, evergreens or palms. By clicking on the icons, users can see information about a tree’s common and scientific names, its size and height, when it was last maintained, and when it is next scheduled for maintenance.
Encinitas divides the responsibility for maintaining city-owned trees between the Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments. Public Works oversees trees in the public right-of-way along streets, while Parks handles trees in medians and in city parks, Pruim said.
Public Works is responsible for about 9,600 trees, while Parks takes care of about 2,700 trees. Public Works inspects and/or maintains all of the trees in its inventory once every 5.5 years, while Parks does the same for its trees annually. Together, the two departments budget about $350,000 yearly to maintain city-owned trees, Pruim said.
The city’s stock of trees comprises some 236 species, according to a survey completed several years ago. The most common are different varieties of palms, which make up about one-third of the city’s tree inventory.
The city recently formed an urban forest subcommittee to study such issues as whether the responsibility for maintaining trees should be combined under one department and whether the city should plant fruit trees in public areas. Two City Council members, Tony Kranz and Lisa Shaffer, sit on the subcommittee.
Encinitas resident Mark Wisniewski, a landscape architect and arborist who has attended the subcommittee’s meetings, and also previewed the Tree Tracker app, called the interactive map “a big step in the right direction.”
In reviewing the app, Wisniewski said, he noted that some of the information needs to be updated to reflect the current condition of trees in parks and other areas. It would also be helpful, he said, if the map indicated when the information was last updated.
But he applauded the effort, and said it is a big improvement over the information that was previously provided on the city’s website, which simply listed a pruning schedule for different areas of the city.
“This is much more user-friendly and helpful,” he said.
The site will be helpful for those interested in the city’s population of trees, and also those who have city trees near their property and want to know when they are scheduled for maintenance, he said.
For now, the Tree Tracker app will be located in a section of the city’s home page called “In the Spotlight,” said Lynn Tufts, the city’s chief information officer. As the city adds apps to its website, a separate apps portal may be added.
In addition to the Tree Tracker app, the city will also be adding an app that provides information about street maintenance schedules.
If members of the public come across incorrect information on the Tree Tracker app, they can contact website administrators at firstname.lastname@example.org, said Tufts. Or they can call 760-633-2850 regarding trees maintained by Public Works, or 760-633-2740 for trees maintained by the Parks department.
The city will continue to add to the available online information about its operations and programs, Tufts said.
“It’s a commitment to provide as much data as we can. That’s definitely one of our goals,” she said.