Take action now to sustain, regenerate urban forest

by Mark von Wodtke, FASLA


Claremont’s urban forest needs your help. Challenges from drought, insects and disease are decimating this common resource. We are losing beautiful trees, which are part of our cultural heritage, add value to our properties and provide many natural services that help sustain our community and improve our quality of life.

By using OpenTreeMap, you can help protect this common resource and hopefully avoid a “tragedy of the commons.” With funds from the Cool California Challenge, Sustainable Claremont purchased a license for everyone in Claremont to access OpenTreeMap, a cloud-based software program that enables us to monitor our urban forest.

The Tree Action Group (TAG) has volunteered to manage the use of this tool in collaboration with the city of Claremont. Ashanti Smalls, co-chair of TAG of Sustainable Claremont, will coordinate this initiative to help sustain and regenerate our urban forest. Please participate in this endeavor by visiting opentreemap.org/Claremont to gain access.

OpenTreeMap lets you log on to Claremont’s tree inventory with your smart phone, tablet, notebook or desktop computer to view information about a tree. You can add information—such as reporting diseased or damaged trees. You can even post photographs of them. It lets you adopt a tree and provide stewardship. OpenTreeMap offers 20/20 vision of our whole urban forest and an understanding of its ecological benefits. By adding trees virtually, we can envision what Claremont could become in the 2020s. Let’s use this software to protect and provide for the future of the City of Trees. Working together as a community, we could help Claremont sustain and regenerate our urban forest.

It takes a group of people who will commit to accomplishing specific tasks such as monitoring diseases in trees. “Citizen Foresters” are successfully greening Detroit. Palo Alto has a tree canopy program that uses this same software, as do some eastern cities which monitor shade trees. People in Australia are raising public consciousness by writing letters to trees, and the Tree People, based in LA, are using this software for OpenTreeLA—an effort to monitor a million trees in our region.  

Here is what we can do here in Claremont:

• Access the Claremont Tree Inventory online: Load this app in your mobile device or computer, and you will have access to a map showing all the street trees in Claremont.  You can select any tree and find out its genus, species and more, if we add more information.

OpenTreeMap relates to Ben Wise’s vision of The Claremont Urban Arboretum. As reported previously in the Courier, Pomona College students have already demonstrated the potential of that project.

Claremont Heritage and TAG of Sustainable Claremont are using this software to help develop a Heritage Tree Preservation Program.

• Crowdsource information: You can contribute information to our tree inventory. Identify trees that are drought-stressed and diseased. Adopt trees you would like to help care for.  The software enables you to use your smart phone or tablet to take and submit a photograph of a tree and report on its condition.

This could help Claremont deal with the polyphagous shot-hole borer. The disease is now threatening trees in Claremont. Early detection will help deal with it. We need more people looking for the shot holes from bores that appear on the bark of Sycamores, Oaks and other smooth-bark trees. You can report them using OpenTreeMap to help the city protect our urban forest.

The tree inventory needs to be continually updated to provide proper stewardship for maintaining trees and budgeting for replacing the ones we lose.

• Collaborative planning online: The software can show sites for future trees that will visually enhance Claremont and provide ecological benefits, as well as sustain species and age diversity to regenerate a healthy urban forest. It would allow us to visualize the placement of city trees before they are planted, providing an interactive way to do urban forest master planning for our city. We may even be able to simulate the growth of trees and calculate the future benefits of their natural services.

By using OpenTreeMap here in Claremont, people could play a Pokémon GO-like game and go out and visualize the trees of our future city. Hopefully, this will stimulate interest to collaboratively participate in the urban forest master planning process.

• Crowdfunding: You can provide funds to help plant and nurture specific trees in your own neighborhood by donating to the Claremont Tree Fund. These funds could pay for nurturing existing trees as well as adding and maintaining new trees that enhance property values and provide the natural services we all benefit from. This software calculates the value of the ecological services trees provide including greenhouse gas absorption benefits, water retention benefits, energy conservation benefits, and air quality improvement benefits.

For guidance on how to use this software,  email otm@sustainableclaremont.org. YouTube also has helpful OpenTreeMap tutorials. Be on the lookout for the shot hole borer and report what you see. Working together we can plan for our common good, and avoid a “tragedy of our commons.”



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