GIS Tree Inventory Project Aids Park Improvement Plan

In the heart of Houston, Texas, is Hermann Park. The 445-acre park is home to a zoo, outdoor theater, outdoor railroad, garden center, and golf course that provide Houston’s citizens and visitors with a beautiful place to enjoy the day. To improve park grounds, the Hermann Park Conservancy (HPC), a nonprofit citizens’ organization, is using GIS to enhance and maintain the park.

HPC has used ArcGIS software as part of its ongoing tree inventory project. The goal of the project is to record information on the species, diameter, and location of every tree in the park. The user can visualize this digitized geographic data on maps and use it for planning park maintenance and improvement.

With a notebook, pen, handheld Garmin 60CSx GPS unit, and measuring tape, summer interns have surveyed nearly the entire park and are continually updating the inventory when old trees are removed or new trees are planted.

After uploading the inventory information as a layer in ArcGIS, the interns created maps that aid in tree maintenance. Map outputs include the distribution of different species, the sites of the park’s most valuable trees, the spread of invasive species, and the locations of dead trees that need to be removed. This information is used to make informed decisions on the best locations for planting sites that will enhance the park’s biodiversity and preserve its canopy cover. HPC has also produced GIS maps that show the species and diameter distribution in each of the park’s pruning divisions and zones to aid pruning contractors in estimating the cost of a project.

With ArcGIS, HPC has been able to expand its inventory project to include information on all park structures, including buildings, sculptures, parking lots, paths, the tracks of the miniature train, and user amenities such as trash cans and picnic tables. HPC hopes to eventually use this information in conjunction with the tree inventory data to create a complete picture of the park and its offerings to the public. HPC has used these additional layers to create maps of newly completed construction projects showing trees, buildings, planting structures, and every new amenity installed for public use.

ArcGIS provides an invaluable tool for assessing the results of completed park improvement projects and planning new ones.

ESRI Forestry GIS Journal, Spring 2010
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