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Tools for Tracking Trees

Task Force looks at high-tech studies along W&OD Trail.

Imagine sitting in a robe at a computer and being able to track what trees a utility company wants to trim along a path on the other side of the county. Such technology could help a task force studying tree trimming procedures along the Washington & Old Dominion plot future trail management.

The Washington and Old Dominion Task Force heard about this technology during its March 9 meeting at the Vienna Community Center. The group of about 20 people, which includes members of the community, elected officials and representatives from Dominion Virginia Power, is developing a document that it hopes will guide the vegetation management practices along the trail.

Mike Knapp, of Fairfax County’s Urban Forestry Department, explained at the meeting that staff people with Global Positioning System (GPS) locators, could walk along the trail and identify specific areas to be trimmed.

The current technology would allow identification of specific trees within about 10 feet. "It’s a possible way of recording work that a patrol team relies upon," Knapp said. "The act of being able to record where you are going to prune I think is going to be instrumental."

After the teams walk the trail and identify problem trees or problem areas, they could then mark those areas on a county Web site. Interested citizens could then visit the site to determine what work will be done in various areas. "We’re able to program a GPS of pocket computer to locate trees and areas for pruning," Knapp said. "You can produce maps that you can print out or project on the county Web site."

Knapp warned that the project could not be one sided. "Dominion Virginia Power’s going to have to buy into this process," Knapp said.

Kathy McDaniel, urban forester for Dominion, said that she would review the idea.

Charles Hardy, manager of transmission lines for Dominion, suggested that a baseline size had be recorded. Hardy suggested that trees with a diameter of five inches or greater be recorded.

Mike Brucato, another forester for Dominion, pointed out that the system needs flexibility if it is ever implemented. Some trees, he said, may look healthy from the ground, but upon closer inspection, higher in the branches, need trimming. "You can’t predict 100 percent the kind of work you’ll need to do," Brucato said.

MUCH OF THIS, however, is not going to be applicable to Vienna for several years. Dominion is between 70 and 80 percent complete in its trimming along the trail, and has finished operation in the Vienna area, Hardy said.

Dominion’s replanting operation is expected to begin soon, McDaniel said, and she hopes it to be complete in late April or early May, weather permitting.

The task force spent little time discussing its draft "Policy and Procedures Manual." Members of the task force had submitted various suggestions for changes to the document since the group’s last meeting, many of which were incorporated into the current draft.

The document, once completed, is intended to guide tree trimming and maintenance along the length of the trail. "When we’re all done the public will have a better idea of what’s going on," said Barbara Hildreth, task force chair.