The red dots in the Cityworks GIS-centric software application indicate ash  tree locations in a city neighborhood. Photo: City of Ann Arbor, Mich.
The red dots in the Cityworks GIS-centric software application indicate ash tree locations in a city neighborhood. Photo: City of Ann Arbor, Mich.

There is much debate over exactly who—or what—Ann Arbor, Mich., is named after. One or both wives of the founders is likely, but many people think trees were a factor: “Arbour” was a common term used to describe a bower of trees when the city was founded in 1824.

In 2005, one-fifth of the 50,000 trees that line the streets of modern-day Ann Arbor were threatened by an increasingly common enemy: emerald ash borer. Since this beetle entered the United States from Asia around summer 2002, it has killed more than 10 million ash trees in Michigan alone and more than 20 million nationwide, mostly in the Midwest. Ann Arbor decided to repel the invasion by removing its 10,000 ash trees.

The Ann Arbor Public Services Department employed the city's geographic information system (GIS), coupled with maintenance management software, to manage the massive tree removal project.

“We needed a way to effectively track all the work being done by forestry operation personnel,” says KC Bemish, GIS coordinator in the city's public services department.

The department already had success with a pilot project involving a map-based work management application developed by Azteca Systems Inc. of Sandy, Utah. After personnel cuts in 2001, Azteca's Cityworks software enabled the department to maintain services with less staff. Created for managing capital assets and infrastructure, Cityworks is a GIS-centric maintenance management system that creates, tracks, and reports requests for service and maintenance activities associated with city assets and/or addresses. It is also fully integrated with ArcGIS from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI, which is used to display, edit, and analyze GIS data.

The ability to use data from Ann Arbor's GIS server made Cityworks an ideal choice for managing the city's trees.

Trees Be Gone

The first step in conquering the emerald ash borer problem was to get organized. Aproject team, which consisted of the Cityworks administrator, city forester, GIS manager, and forestry operations clerks, was chosen to create a plan of attack. The team decided upon four phases of implementation:

Phase 1: Convert the city's old tabular tree database, which included a street-by-street tree inventory, into a temporary GIS layer using geocoding. Ash trees were then identified and locations were corrected using the general descriptive fields in the database and digital orthophotos showing the exact locations.

Phase 2: Meet with forestry staff to determine needs and update a base data model to include the intended uses of tree features and historical information such as legacy IDs and location descriptors. The team also pruned unneeded fields and defined domain tables.

Phase 3: Configure Cityworks software specifically for all forestry operations. This included importing base data (i.e. customers, streets, etc.) and installing database software. The implementation team then focused on developing reports, and importing forestry operations staff and equipment into the database.

Phase 4: Provide training to public services staff on use of both ArcGIS and Cityworks software. Training included demonstrations, hands-on usage, and individual coaching.