Magazine article American Forests

A System That Works

Magazine article American Forests

A System That Works

Article excerpt

Amid tales of budget cuts and decay in our cities' urban forests, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a Cinderella story-new strategies have enabled tree crews there to move from crisis management to crisis prevention and a healthier tree community.

As in many cities, a focus on new plantings caused Fort Wayne's burgeoning tree population to quickly exceed its tree-care budget. Crews were swamped by an endless cycle of storm-damage clean-up that required them to remove over 1,000 dead or dying trees each year. Zigzagging through the city streets to respond to each new emergency call, crews had little time to devote to citizen requests for tree work-answered on a first-come, first-served basis, with the "first-served" often waiting for months.

In 1989 city arborist Bill Diedrichs came to the rescue with planned street-tree management. This new system called for a complete inventory of the 46,288 city trees, using hand-held computers to record the species, size, location, and condition of each tree. The city was divided into 45 "management sections"; sections in the poorest condition overall were given the highest priority in maintenance scheduling.

This systematic approach has increased efficiency by 200 to 300 percent, bringing the number of trees trimmed from 2,440 in 1989 to a walloping 6,275 in 1993 with no significant increase in staff or equipment. …

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