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Iowa City creates tree inventory to grow and manage its green space

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — From green ash to a river birch, there are thousands of trees in Iowa City. 44,868  on public spaces to be exact, and an online interactive map tracks them all.

In December of 2016, the Iowa City Parks and Forestry Division started making an inventory of the city’s trees.

The city worked with a geo-technical firm out of Colorado, Plan-It Geo, to catalog the trees to help the city manage and maintain its urban forestry.

On Friday, Jan. 4, the database was opened to the public in a Tree Plotter app.

Each dot on the Tree Plotter map represents a tree.

“It’s going to help us manage what we have right now and plan for the future,” Iowa City Superintendent of Parks Zac Hall says.

Through the map, each tree can be clicked on. It gives the type of tree, where it’s located and what shape it is in.

Some observations show which trees are at risk of dying. One silver maple tree located near Riverside Road showed it was at moderate risk because of poor root structure and cavity decay.

“From a forestry perspective, how the tree can be all it can be,” Hall said. “So, if it’s white oak, is that white oak performing or growing how it would in a natural setting?”

Hall said the inventory also helps with the city’s management of the emerald ash borer, an invasive species that kills ash trees.

It also accounts for how much each tree is worth and its eco-benefits.

Parks Superintendent Zac Hall said the city wants to use the information collected to grow the number of trees and the diversity of species

“Folks can see how much the tree in their right away is sequestering carbon, uptaking stormwater, cooling their home and just adding property value from an aesthetic standpoint,” Hall said.

Hall said the information does serve a larger purpose in managing the landscape. He said the information collected will go to the city’s urban forest plan to add more trees and diversity.

“Species diversification is one of our number goals. We get that in-house with the plantings that we do, with the contracted work we do but then also with plan and review for any new development,” he said.

Hall said nearly 5,000 planting spaces were compiled during the process for future trees.

The city currently has 4,972 different species in its urban landscape.

All together, collecting the information and creating the tree inventory cost the city around $100,000, according to Hall.

The most common trees were silver maple, northern hackberry, and green ash. Hall said most surprisingly crabapple trees were the fourth most common.

From the data, Hall said it was determined that the current trees bring in an estimated $4.2 million in value to the city.

Jalyn Souchek


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