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New Canaan Tree Board rooting for success with new inventory initiative

Updated 10:59 am, Sunday, June 30, 2013
  • Tree Warden Bruce Pauley helps train some of those who will be volunteering their time to take an inventory of the New Canaan's trees. Photo: Contributed
    Tree Warden Bruce Pauley helps train some of those who will be volunteering their time to take an inventory of the New Canaan's trees. Photo: Contributed

 

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The New Canaan Tree Board will bring crowdsourcing, a hot concept in the tech world, to town to better monitor the town's trees.

Adopting the concept for its own use, the board created a program that uses New Canaan residents to identify, tag and evaluate every tree along the town's 124 miles of public roads.

"It's an aid to whomever the tree warden is to track the decline or progress of all the trees," Tree Warden Bruce Pauley said. "We can look at an area on the map and know that there are a lot of ash trees. If there's an ash disease, we know we'll have to pay attention to that, and make a plan of protection, for instance."

The board purchased five digital handheld devices that will allow volunteers to record the location and state of the trees. The devices, which cost $700 each, have a GPS that can record within 1 foot the exact location of the tree. Volunteers are being trained to estimate tree data, such as the diameter of the trunk, the approximate height, the type of tree and percentage of dead limbs, all of which would be punched in to the device. The findings will be transmitted from the devices to a town database, allowing Pauley to better monitor the trees.

"I've always loved trees and I found that I didn't really know the trees that well. This was an opportunity to get to know trees better," said Dick Bergmann, a Tree Board member and one of the volunteers. "There's going to be a lot of maples and oaks, but then after that it gets a little complicated. It's kind of fun to do, identify a tree by looking at it."

Bergmann also said the handheld devices are easy to use.

"Once you understand the program, it's really simple. It's a touch screen, which asks you various information and you poke your finger at it and it goes on to the next screen. There's a keyboard at the bottom you can use, too. It shouldn't take more than five minutes per tree, and if you get used to it, probably a tree a minute."

The trees in question would only be public ones, as defined as being within the town's right of way, typically 25 feet from the center-dividing line of any street. With 124 miles of public roads, the number of trees could be in the hundreds of thousands. That's why the Tree Board decided to crowdsource the effort, hoping that by multiplying the number of participants, it will take less time.

Board member Tonya Gwynn said the effort has about 15 volunteers so far, but that more participation would be welcome.

"The ones who were here Saturday (at a training session) were pretty involved. We could use more volunteers, though," she said.

Pauley couldn't estimate the length of the project. He said volunteers will contact him and meet at Zumbach's Gourmet Coffee the next morning, where he'll sign the handheld devices out and collect them at the end of the day. He will keep track of what parts of which roads will be done and let the volunteers go where they like of the unexplored territory.

"This goes a long way to identifying problems," Pauley said. "Simply having a tree warden responsible for 124 miles of road isn't enough."

Volunteers may contact Brad Johnson, the volunteer coordinator for the project, at johnson.brad668@gmail.com.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews