Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

District residents have until June 15th to suggest locations that need trees for the upcoming 2012-2013 street tree planting season.

DDOT’s Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) designates June 15th of each year as the final day for resident feedback on where to place trees during the roughly October through April annual planting season.

UFA’s job revolves around the trees in tree boxes along city streets. The District currently boasts 130,000 street trees, which fill over 90% of the available tree locations filled.

With unlimited funding UFA could plant a tree in every empty tree box this season, but budget constraints require arborists to choose which spots to fill. They prioritize areas where residents have requested trees, and use any remaining funding to add trees in areas with more available locations and less existing tree cover.

A team of 12 arborists, including Supervisory Forester Earl Eutsler, monitors the approximately 145,000 available open spots for trees. The available space fluctuates for many reasons. For example, redesigned sidewalks or roads can eliminate tree boxes, or a large tree imposing on power lines may be removed and replaced with a number of smaller trees.

Eutsler encourages residents to use online service requests to provide information and feedback to the arborists. Alternatively, residents can request plantings by calling 311 or using the SeeClickFix mobile application. UFA staff are also available at 202-671-5133 to speak with residents about tree concerns.

Eutsler says:

Ideally, each customer would go through, where they can enter the comments for themselves, as opposed to relaying a message to a call taker where an abridgement may occasionally occur. Also, people who start with will enjoy a virtual file cabinet of every request they have put in, for reference. So customers should start with 311 and be as specific as possible. If they would like to move from the formal request into an actual dialogue with one of our arborists they should leave their email address in the contact information window and add a comment requesting a follow up message from the inspecting arborist.

Of course, our findings are entered into each service request, so the customer could also log back in to see our findings. Please convey that every official service request is reviewed by this office. Our arborists take each request with them into the field (virtually), and update the service request while on site at the tree in question. At the end of each day, our inspection results are pushed back into the main request system where they may be reviewed by the customer.

Residents can also track plans to plant and remove trees through a set of Google Documents spreadsheets. An ArcGIS map shows the locations of existing trees. UFA is moving toward only using ArcGIS to track the tree inventory, planting, and removal in the future.

An open data set of street trees lists the location, tree species, size, condition, and date of last inspection. By plotting the DC GIS data, residents can even analyze the ratio of open to planted spaces in their neighborhoods.

The arborists are limited in the amount of time they can spend caring for every street tree. Residents can adopt and care for newly planted trees through DDOT’s Canopy Keeper program.

The non-profit company Casey Trees recently released a comprehensive online reference page about the District’s street trees. There are other Casey Trees programs that complement UFA’s efforts, such as a tree purchase rebate program for trees on private property.

Residents periodically notice newly planted trees that are not thriving because they haven’t gotten enough water or care. UFA tries to avoid these problems by requiring its planting contractors to guarantee the tree for one year, and sets a demanding standard for what constitutes a properly established tree.

If you see newly planted or established trees that need trimming, maintenance, or removal, enter a service request to notify the UFA. Likewise, if you have an empty tree space near your home, enter a service request before June 15th for UFA to plant a new tree during the next planting season.

Mitch Wander first arrived in Washington, DC over 30 years ago as a US House of Representatives page while in high school. An avid promoter of DC living, Mitch has lived in wards 1, 2, 3, and 6. He and his wife are proud DC Public School parents. He serves as an officer in the US Army Reserve.