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Thursday, September 13, 2007

DeSoto’s Trees to Get Logged
By John Lawhorne

DeSoto County is logging the trees in its county parks.

Once the extensive inventory is completed, the county parks and recreation department will have a basic database of the number and kinds of trees in the parks.

“In the past, we had no inventory at all of what kind of trees we had and the condition of the trees,” said Kurt Vargo, DeSoto County Parks and Recreation director.

Following Hurricane Charley, the county found that collecting cleanup money to restore trees was difficult without an accurate inventory.

“We didn’t know what trees what we had before the hurricane,” county park ranger Lorna Ransom said. “We don’t know what tree communities are left. With the inventory, we will know exactly what trees are there and in the event of another hurricane, the county will be able to accurately estimate how much damage was done to park trees.”

Funding for the inventory is being provided by a $63,000 urban and community forestry grant, Vargo said. The primary purpose of the grant is to assess the county park trees' condition as well as to build a computer database.

Ransom said, “So we will go around with high technology instruments and collect information on the trees and their condition(s). Then we’ll put the information in a geographical information system data base. It’s a huge data base used in making aerial maps. It is the same technology that 9-1-1 uses to locate callers."

A GIS is a collection of computer hardware, software and geographic data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information, according to the Web site www.gis.com.

“Once the inventory is complete, I can use this equipment to come up with an aerial photograph of a park and then click on a tree and the system will tell me anything about it I need to know that tree," Ransom said. "That would help us collect data on what kind of ecosystems and habitats we have in our parks.”

The county has contracted out the inventory to Johnson Engineering, which will log the data using high technology equipment purchased though the grant.

Anthony Myers, a satellite mapping technician for Johnson Engineering, is conducting the inventory. At the same time, he is training Ransom to take over updating of the inventory once it is complete.

Myers said not all the county's trees were being inventoried.

“We have identified certain parcels that need to be inventoried and we have been contracted to inventory 5,000 of the trees in those parcels. We are currently at about 2,400 trees on which we’ve collected data.”

Myers said the inventory should be completed in about two weeks.

© 2007 Sunline