Central Park tree census

December 15, 2010 10:14:19 AM PST
Have you ever thought about how many trees there are in Central Park? And would you believe there are people whose jobs is it to actually count them? And they're not using their fingers and toes to do it. This is high-tech.

When Eric George looks at a tree, he sees what most do not.

"These trees, a lot of them are really old and very well maintained," he said.

Eric is an arborist, or a tree specialist. And he and a team of three others are counting the trees in Central Park, one American Elm at a time.

However, this tree census has gone high-tech. Eric carries a GPS unit on his back, as well as a hand-held data collection unit.

What all this means is that, in a span of 8 to 10 weeks, four employees from Davey Tree Experts will have plotted some 26,000 trees, recording height, width, canopy size and tree condition.

That's a far cry from the last census in 1982, which consisted of 30 Rutgers students canvassing the park with just pencil and paper over several months.

"The GPS tells us where we are, but we are the ones physically locating the tree," George said. "Then we're measuring diameter...next we would do the spread of the tree, and that involves pacing it out.

Finally, he measures the height of the tree with an instrument that measures the angle from the base to the top. And once he records the information into his mini computer, it's onward to the next tree.

In just two to three minutes, Eric ear-marks a tree with a detailed history that has never been done before.

"We're always considering planting opportunities for the future, so the census will really show us where these opportunities present themselves," Central Park Conservancy Horticulture Director Russell Fredericks said.

All this in-depth information will go into a database, kind of like a patient file at a doctor's office. They'll use the information to help preserve the trees for future generations.