Displaying all posts with the mobile tag.

CITY OF TREES Film Tells the Story of Greening Efforts in DC

Washington Parks & People Executive Director Steve Coleman speaks with residents of Ward 8 in Oxon Run Park, Washington, DC in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Washington Parks & People Executive Director Steve Coleman speaks with residents of Ward 8 in DC’s Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Editor’s Note: We believe storytelling is a powerful tool for sharing the importance of maintaining, protecting and growing our urban forests. At OpenTreeMap, we’ve seen firsthand how storytelling can be used to recruit volunteers, garner support and secure funding. In addition to helping you manage your trees and green infrastructure, maps can help you tell your organization’s story. This month we wanted to share with you how one new documentary film is also working to share the story of urban trees and the people that plant and care for them. The following post is written by Lance Kramer of Meridian Hill Pictures. 

As documentary storytellers, we use film to share underrepresented perspectives, build empathy for people different from ourselves, and facilitate conversations about the complexities of the human experience. Our latest film CITY OF TREES is a story that challenges audiences to think deeply about the triumphs and struggles in making a long-term social impact within an environmental nonprofit.

CITY OF TREES follows the stories of trainees and staff in a stimulus-funded green job-training program, Washington Parks & People’s DC Green Corps, designed to put unemployed people back to work by planting and caring for trees in underserved communities in Washington, DC. The film follows its central participants navigating difficult issues: attempting to make change within a low-income urban community; fighting institutional poverty with short-term, non-renewable grant resources; creating environmental justice where it has been absent for decades.

In the process, CITY OF TREES thrusts viewers into the inspiring but messy world of job training and the struggles change makers face in urban communities everyday.

DC Green Corps trainee Michael Samuels and his mother Eleanor Barnett share the story of Michael's incarceration in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

DC Green Corps trainee Michael Samuels and his mother Eleanor Barnett share the story of Michael’s incarceration in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Over the course of the five years we spent making CITY OF TREES, telling this kind of story required all parties — us as the filmmakers, the program staff and trainees, funders, and audiences — to embrace a certain unpredictability and complexity. Because our story centered on real people, we had to accept that any message about the impact of tree plantings or green job training would never be as tightly-crafted as a grant report or fundraising video. The goal of the film was not to solve unemployment or lack of canopy coverage in certain neighborhoods, but instead to explore the complexities that emerge when people with different backgrounds and perspectives work towards a common goal.

Stories that deepen public consciousness and promote productive discourse are increasingly important as cities become bigger and more diverse.

With nearly 50 screenings of CITY OF TREES at film festivals, conferences, nonprofits, universities, and public agencies last year, we saw how the film helped audiences develop a deeper understanding of the issues and possible solutions, and strengthen relationships with other stakeholders. At screenings we found that people have craved stories that seek deeper truths and raise hard questions.

Steve Coleman introduces a new cohort of DC Green Corps trainees in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Steve Coleman introduces a new cohort of DC Green Corps trainees in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

We hope that when people watch City of Trees they’re able to draw connections to experiences in their own lives and step into the shoes of someone who is different from themselves. We also hope that the courage displayed by the people who shared their stories in CITY OF TREES — particularly the staff and trainees of Washington Parks & People — will help make it easier for others in urban forestry and environmental justice fields to think about the potential to use authentic storytelling in their own work. To help with this effort, we recently released the CITY OF TREES discussion guide which was made with support from the U.S. Forest Service. The guide is designed to help nonprofits facilitate dialogues around the film’s central themes: environmental justice, workforce development, community engagement and returning citizens.

It is more important than ever for people from all backgrounds to come together to confront some of our country’s most pressing issues. We hope through watching the film people can better understand the complex factors facing urban communities and engage in conversations that lead to positive change.

DC Green Corps community liaison James Magruder conducts outreach in DC's Oxon Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

DC Green Corps community liaison James Magruder conducts outreach in DC’s Oxon Run Park in a scene from CITY OF TREES.

Click here to find out how you can host a screening of CITY OF TREES. The film will also have its encore broadcast on PBS/WORLD Channel‘s America ReFramed on Tuesday, Jan. 17 in a lineup of films focused on the fights for income equality and racial justice.

For more information on accessing the discussion guide and Community Screening Kit, you can contact Lisa Allen at lisa@meridianhillpictures.comLance Kramer is the producer of CITY OF TREES and Executive Director of Meredian Hill Pictures.

Practical Methods for Reducing Urban Tree Mortality

2015_06_22_Street Foliage copy

Tree-lined streets like this one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania cannot be created overnight. Trees must be monitored closely to ensure their long-term survival.

We recently hosted a webinar on practical methods for increasing the annual survival rates of young trees, a topic that is critical to ensuring the longterm growth of our urban forests. Urban forests provide environmental, health, economic benefits that motivate tree-planting programs. However, realizing these ecosystem benefits depends on tree survival. Overall canopy levels in major cities have been declining, and tree planting and regeneration do not offset current losses.

Small, young trees typically have highest mortality rates. However, accurate mortality data is hard to come by and the data that does exist suggests over a quarter of trees planted die within first 5 to 9 years.[1]  The lack of available information on mortality rates and causes demonstrates the need for standardized tree monitoring protocol. Collecting and analyzing longitudinal tree data will take years, but to assist in data collection efforts the Urban Tree Growth and Longevity Working Group developed a minimum data set necessary for any urban tree monitoring project. This data set includes field crew information, tree species, location, site type, mortality status, condition rating, and diameter at breast height (DBH).

Technology can be used to support effective, long-term monitoring of urban trees and assist with tree planting and maintenance data processes. Azavea prepared a report titled “Data Management for Urban Tree Monitoring” for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the USDA Forest Service on the requirements for ideal software monitoring system. The report is the culmination of over twenty interviews with researchers, practitioners from organizations throughout the US (federal agencies, academic researchers, municipal and nonprofit employees, volunteers, students). Included in the report are in-depth analyses of the software offerings currently on the market and whether they meet the features requirements that allow for successful monitoring.

Data-driven decisions can help you maximize limited resources and advocate for additional funding. Watch the video for more detail on the minimum data set and using technology to ensure the health of your urban forest.

Effective monitoring is not the only solution to increasing the mortality rates of young trees. TreePans, a family-run business based in Iowa, has designed a product that protect trees from mechanical damage and allows for more efficient watering. In the video below, Ben Brown of TreePans discusses the core functionality of the protect, how the implementation of TreePans at one university helped reduce mortality rates, and the importance of providing workers and community members alike with the requisite knowledge and resources for helping care for young trees.

Click here to sign up for future webinars, urban forestry news and product updates.

Uncovering the actionable insights in your tree inventory

We’re excited to see more organizations and municipalities across the country incorporate tree inventories into their urban forest strategic plans. To get the most out of the data you collect in the field, we recommend first identifying your inventory goals. Are you trying to calculate the impact of a program’s ecosystem benefits for grant reporting? Want to track maintenance activities and estimate maintenance costs? Looking to better understand your inventory’s biodiversity to protect against widespread pests and disease? All are important reasons to complete a tree inventory, and will determine what data you collect and in what format.

In many ways, once the tree inventory is completed the work to increase canopy coverage, perform routine maintenance, plant trees in empty planting sites and remove dead trees has just begun. We’ve outlined some easy search queries you can perform to identify the actionable insights hidden within your tree inventory data.

Dale Carlon inventorying trees in the field.

Dale Carlon inventorying trees in the field.

Take Dale Carlon, an OpenTreeMap client and consulting arborist in Reno, Nevada. Dale and his team at Dale Carlon Consulting, Inc. provide clients with comprehensive tree inventories that help them identify hazard trees, allocate resources, maintain key infrastructure and keep residents safe. Dale creates an OpenTreeMap for each homeowners association (HOA) he inventories so his clients can easily update information, budget resources and track maintenance activities.

A map of one of Dale Carlon’s inventories. The map allows property managers to easily identify trees of interest, estimate maintenance costs and plan maintenance activities.

With our new advanced search filter, Dale can search by any custom field he has created. In seconds, he can drill down to the 183 trees – of the nearly 7,000 trees at the HOA depicted above – that are dead or dying and require removal or the 208 trees that have between ¾ and 1 ½ inches in sidewalk damage. With this information, Dale can estimate the costs of required maintenance for his clients and the property manager can require all maintenance work to be logged in the field using OpenTreeMap’s mobile applications. This way, the HOA’s inventory stays up to date and maintenance is tracked and stored on the same place as all other tree information. Technicians see their location on the map, can easily identify the tree of interest and upload photos to create a pictorial timeline of maintenance completed.

Tree People LA uses custom fields to track and report on specific tree planting initiatives.

Tree People LA uses custom fields to track and report on specific tree planting initiatives.

Many of our nonprofit clients must report to funders on ecosystem services, trees planted and volunteer engagement. By creating a custom field for a specific planting program, a non-profit organization like TreePeople LA can quickly identify the 18 plants mapped so far as part of their City Plants program. These 18 trees alone bring over $700 in total annual benefits.

At OpenTreeMap, we will work with you to refine your data collection methodology so you can easily identify and analyze key information of interest. Planning an inventory this Spring? Let us know how we can help. Already have existing geo-coded inventory data? Send it over and we can upload it into OpenTreeMap and bring your tree inventory to life.

Experimenting with Treemapping Event Formats in Los Angeles

A TreeMapLA user enters tree data into her phone

A TreeMapLA user enters tree data into her phone

Los Angeles poses a unique mix of urban environmental challenges. It is the second largest city by population in the US, but it lacks a truly walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly urban core like first-place New York or third-place Chicago. Instead, Angelenos are settled quite uniformly across the whole region. These two factors contribute to L.A. having more vehicles per square mile than any other urbanized area. All those cars and trucks demand wide swathes of asphalt and concrete, which generate a formidable “urban heat island” effect that raises temperatures in an already hot Southern California climate. On bad days, the extra heat can cook these vehicle emissions into a soupy smog – giving L.A. the worst air quality of any major American city. Access to water, too, is a challenge in the hot climate. L.A. must import a staggering 85% of the water it uses from surrounding communities.

“Suffice it to say, it’s not awesome where our water comes from, what we use it for, or how much of it we use.”, said Danny Carmichael, the Senior Manager of Forestry Projects at TreePeople, the tree-planting and conservation nonprofit in Los Angeles behind TreeMapLA.org.

As TreePeople’s work in the areas of urban forestry and green infrastructure can attest, L.A.’s stressed environment is not without effective solutions. Urban trees and other green infrastructure like green roofs, bioswales, and rain barrels can bring relief to the hot, smoggy, parched Los Angeles climate with their cooling shade, air cleansing, and water filtration powers. TreePeople has been planting trees in the region for over 40 years. The organization also pushes for other types of green infrastructure and “forest-mimicking technologies” as part of the “Functioning Community Forest” model it has developed. All of TreePeople’s activities are aimed at its mission of inspiring and supporting people with resources to take personal responsibility for improving the urban environment of Los Angeles.

TreePeople began using the OpenTreeMap Cloud platform in March of this year to grow and steward TreeMapLA.org, which will eventually be a map of all the trees and green infrastructure in greater Los Angeles. TreePeople’s focus on inspiring individuals to care for the urban environment is a great fit for the crowdsourced approach to urban forest inventory that OTM and the mobile apps for iOS and Android enable. “Our bread and butter is working with volunteers. Every single weekend we have 4-5 volunteer events, whether that’s tree planting, tree care, mountain restoration work, or educational workshops,” said Danny. “We have a lot of practice in getting folks out and getting them excited.”

TreeMapLA is a pioneer, as it is the first OpenTreeMap site to be tracking trees as well as other green infrastructure projects (what TreePeople calls “Watershed Solutions”) like rain barrels, rain gardens, and green roofs or concrete reductions.

“We would love to see where these features are,” said Danny. “Who has rain gardens? Can we go in and do a workshop where we have a whole street that has rain gardens and rain barrels?”

While TreePeople sees the potential for innovative programming around green infrastructure down the road, most of their activity in the past several months since TreeMapLA launched has been mapping trees. When the map launched in March, TreePeople set a public goal of mapping 1,000 trees before month’s end – a target that was rapidly met and exceeded by an initial wave of enthusiastic users. In the months since then, Danny and his team have experimented with several tree mapping events, including a new event format they’re calling “Thirsty Thursdays,” where volunteers do tree mapping after work for a few hours before heading to a neighborhood bar.

A TreeMapLA user carefully measures a tree trunk's "DBH" - Diameter at Breast Height - for inclusion on TreeMapLA.

A TreeMapLA user carefully measures a tree trunk’s “DBH” – Diameter at Breast Height – for inclusion on TreeMapLA.

“We’re putting all our energy right now behind drought response activities,” said Danny, referencing the crushing drought Califonia has been struggling with. Danny said the initial idea for Thirsty Thursdays was to engage volunteers to help water the trees, as a social activity. “So [we would] water trees, and water humans with some alcoholic libations.” But through the course of planning that type of an event – carrying out site visits, getting a sense of what the tree watering needs in certain neighborhoods are – Danny realized TreeMapLA could make the events more successful and play an effective role as a planning tool. “[We are] going out and doing [Thirsty Thursday] events as the first touch, where it basically becomes a site visit,” he said. “We can go into those communities and get a better sense of what the needs are, so that we can go back a month later and tackle those needs.”

Thirsty Thursdays have started small, with about 10 volunteers each time, but Danny hopes to get up to 20-30 volunteers after the word about treemapping has spread. “”When I talk to the folks that do come, they are just sort of taking a chance. [They] don’t really know what it is or what it entails,” said Danny, “but after going through the process of mapping trees for a couple of hours, they’re really excited.”

Treemapping events like Thirsty Thursdays, have required rethinking TreePeople’s expectations for volunteer events. “Doing tree care, tree plantings in the city, that we have down to a science. We know how many folks we need, for how many trees, and how big an area we can hit” in the right amount of time, Danny explained to me. “But [with treemapping] I have very much been experimenting to figure out what is realistic.”

Thirsty Thursdays in particular are an experimental departure from TreePeople’s normal programming because they are held on weekday evenings, after work, and for a shorter time of two hours. “We expected it would be different, but we’re also seeing the people who are using TreeMapLA and the people that we’re hoping will be excited about it are a different demographic than our usual volunteers,” said Danny. “We’re hoping by making it more of a social thing, we can really reach those people better.”

Danny and TreePeople have also held larger tree mapping events on Saturday mornings, a more traditional volunteering time. These events take place over three hours. So far, three events have been organized in Downtown LA, Culver City, and Glendale, with about 15 volunteers at each.

In Downtown LA, TreePeople was working with a community group that is working on a master tree plan. “[We were] trying to figure out where the trees are, and where the empty planting spaces are, so they can figure out what they need to do to add more trees, and where the tree care needs are,” explained Danny. At this event, TreePeople mapped 165 trees, the most at any event. That’s nearly one tree every minute!

The Culver City event was with a group that is trying to protect a unique park. “It’s actually a traffic median that is also a park, and the city is proposing to widen the road that it’s next to,” said Danny. The community group wanted to map the park’s trees in TreeMapLA and use OpenTreeMap’s i-Tree Streets ecosystem services calculations to show the economic and other benefits of the trees to the city. “Hopefully that will change the arguments that the city is making,” and make the case for replanting those trees or reconsidering the course of the road, Danny explained.

TreeMapLA, showing the trees in the Culver City park that were mapped at the event.

TreeMapLA, showing the trees in the Culver City park that were mapped at the event.

TreePeople was also approached by EarthWatch, an international nonprofit, and organized a treemapping event near Glendale. “We were working on a citizen science project where we were gathering leaf samples, and those are going to be used by some university researchers to infer the growth rate and water use of these trees,” said Danny. EarthWatch wants to gather data across L.A. and compare it to NASA satellite data, “so that they can get a better sense of what species are doing well where in the city, so that moving forward, we can be smarter about what trees we are planting where,” explained Danny.

As he explained these events to me, Danny realized that all of TreePeople’s larger treemapping events had been organized as partnerships with other groups, rather than TreePeople going out with its regular volunteer programs. The Downtown LA and Culver City groups were previous TreePeople volunteers, which then came up with the idea of using TreeMapLA to advance their own projects.

“That’s our model: finding motivated people and giving them the knowledge and tools they need to inspire their communities to take personal responsibility for the urban forest,” said Danny. “Those two instances are sort of our dream.”

12 Great Questions about OTM Mobile Apps

otm blog

We recently hosted a “Mobile Citizen Science – Gathering Urban Forestry Data via the OpenTreeMap Apps” webinar, and just like the last time, we got a bunch of great questions in our Q&A – so many that we couldn’t get to some of them during the webinar.  See below for our answers, and let us know your questions by emailing opentreemap@azavea.com!

Read more …

Sign Up

Want to Try OpenTreeMap?

Create an account in less than two minutes and get a one-month free trial of OpenTreeMap Cloud. It's that easy.