Teaming Up to Help Urban Forests Flourish

A team of arborists from Davey Resources Group collected data throughout 134 Oklahoma City parks to determine the location, species and health of the trees in our community.

The trees that adorn our city parks and give character to our neighborhoods aren’t just pleasing to the eye. In fact, the collective benefits of trees are so great that a significant loss could create staggering effects in the community. To ensure our city’s trees continue to thrive, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has teamed up with the City of Oklahoma City Parks & Recreation Department and Oklahoma Forestry Services to facilitate a tree inventory in our city parks.

Completed in February 2017, the Oklahoma City Parks Tree Inventory provides data on 19,632 trees located in 134 Oklahoma City parks. The project was funded by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation and Oklahoma Forestry Services to help the city lay the groundwork for a tree maintenance, planting and replacement program for our community parks.

“This will not only aid our grounds and forestry crews with ongoing tree maintenance and assessing the health of our trees, but will provide park horticulturalists and planners with the tools they need to develop a succession plan to ensure the continuity of our parks’ urban forest for many years to come,” said Douglas Kupper, Parks & Recreation director.

Conducted by professional arborists from Davey Resources Group, the inventory reveals that the majority of trees in Oklahoma City parks are in good or fair condition and yield $163,603 in annual environmental benefits for the city. The inventoried trees provide 310.8 acres of canopy cover, which amounts to shade in 13.5 percent of the parks. The estimated value of the 19,632 inventoried trees is $42.1 million, or $2,146 per tree.

Brian Dougherty with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation Parks & Public Space Initiative said the tree inventory will strengthen the city’s ability to protect trees against threats like insects, disease and severe weather. For example, the emerald ash borer is a wood-boring beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in North America. Spread through infested logs or firewood, the pest was discovered in Grove, Oklahoma, in 2016, and is predicted to infiltrate ash trees throughout Oklahoma.

“Thanks to the tree inventory data, we can easily identify the locations of all ash trees in our city parks,” Brian said. “We can also identify the larger, more successful ash trees and use our resources more efficiently to help save those trees. Without the data and technology from the inventory, this would be like finding a needle in a haystack.”

The tree inventory identified 492 ash trees in Oklahoma City parks. These trees account for 3 percent of our parks’ trees and 18 percent of total leaf area. By identifying the exact location, size and condition of ash trees in city parks, staff can proactively plan to control the pest by deciding which trees to inoculate and which to remove prior to infestation. The city can also begin replacing at-risk trees and interplanting more sustainable tree varieties to protect against canopy cover loss.

Individuals interested in learning more about the trees in our city parks can visit occf.org/treeinventory to download a project summary that illustrates how the data can be used, as well as the final report. In addition, an interactive online map of the inventoried trees is available to the community at OklahomaCityOK.MyTreeKeeper.com.