Optimizing Tree Planting in Park Ridge


January 2017 Tree Planting

Most Public Works and Forestry departments know the magnitude and attention to detail that must be paid to tree plantings each year. What locations should we plant trees in? What is the most efficient route to take? How do we stay within budget and get the project done in a timely manner?  


In the spring and fall of each year, the City of Park Ridge must answer these questions to coordinate and manage tree planting in the parkway.  The planting process is conducted by contractors and can include 100 to 300 trees, depending on the fiscal year and money availableBecause of the vast number of trees paired with the extensive planting area, coordinating and managing an efficient tree planting project can be a difficult task.  


How Trees Are Planted 

In the past, planters worked off only a map of the planting locations, without any directions regarding how to order the plantings. This was problematic for Village staff needing to work on trees following a tree planting, as staff would not know where trees had been or were going to be planted next. GIS was able to simplify and streamline this process by creating a map of the optimal route planters should follow. This helps Village staff to better manage the planting process and know which locations to visit. 


Efficiency, Collaboration, and Technology 

The route is created using a tree location address list provided by Public Works and ESRI’s Network Analyst extension, a tool shared within the GIS Consortium. The mapped addresses are ordered to reduce mileage and drive time in the overall route.   


These tasks work together to create a systematic and efficient workflow for the planters and city staff, reducing the time and effort spent on coordinating the bi-yearly tree planting. To further aid in management of the tree planting process, the time it takes to plant a tree could be incorporated into the analysis. This would give all involved a better idea of how many trees should be expected to be planted per day. Such a process and workflow is not limited to planting trees but could be created for other projects as well.   


Contact a specialist to discuss ways in which this process could be applied to improve a workflow! 


Take the Lead 

Discover, innovate, and collaborate with the GIS Consortium today! Contact your community’s GIS Specialist to discuss project opportunities, Consortium services, and GIS.  


If you would like to learn more about this initiative or if you have questions, please contact agrahovac@mgpinc.com. 


Author: Louise Hahn, GIS Specialist 


Know the Flow: Who Has Residential Sprinklers

During a fire event, a sprinkler system is a key ally in battling the blaze and minimizing the damage. The City of Park Ridge, IL understands this firsthand and requires any new construction be equipped with a fire sprinkler system. While a long-time standard for commercial structures, this now includes residential buildings. 

Sprinkler information was traditionally tracked in a spreadsheet. However, locating a particular address wasn’t an easy or robust process, and not all staff members had direct access. As a result, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Office was asked to devise a more effective way of delivering this information to staff.

GIS created a MapOffice™ Web Access Business Intelligence connection that references residential sprinkler locations throughout the city. Now when staff want to determine whether or not a residential sprinkler is installed at a home, all they do is type in an address when the connection is on. They can then click a point on the map and the spreadsheet information attributed to that address can be quickly accessed.

This is a great example of how GIS can connect with address-based tabular data and make information immediately accessible to those who need it.

Using GIS to Keep Unwanted Urban Critters in Check

Rodents, and rats in particular, are a persistent nuisance and potential health hazard in any urban area. If left uncontrolled, these critters multiply rapidly and wreak havoc on the environment they share with the larger human population. Communities must be proactive in keeping the rat population low.

The City of Park Ridge, IL sought an effective way to combat their growing population of rats. They called on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to help with their efforts. GIS evaluated the locations in the city with the greatest number of rat complaints and sightings and the relation to paved/unpaved alleys. Using data collected over the past six years, numbers were mapped and a hot-spot analysis was performed. This analysis depicts locations on the city map in varying shades of color to show how dense or sparse rat populations are in a particular area based on the number of complaints received.

Drawing on this key data, the city’s health department determined which neighborhoods are most heavily affected by rats, and where and what number of bait boxes should be placed in sewers this spring. Due to GIS’s involvement in the project, the City of Park Ridge is confident they are targeting sectors with the greatest amount of rat activity and controlling the rising rodent population.

Accessing Open Permit Information Using GIS

In 2013, the City of Park Ridge, IL successfully connected its local permitting database to the village’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) environment through a browser-based mapping application called MapOffice™ Web Access. This connection allowed a city employee the ability to see all permits issued since 2000 for a given property by simply clicking an address on the map. This worked great when only being concerned with one address at a time, but what if a user wanted to view permits that related to multiple variables rather than just one across multiple properties? One such example of this was the inability to look at only permits that were issued and never closed for an entire neighborhood. The city’s Community Development and Preservation department requested an enhancement to the permit lookup functionality to allow for more flexibility with the queries that could be displayed in the MapOffice™ Web Access application.

Using the Business Intelligence feature in MapOffice™, a user can now query any open permits around the city by a custom date search. For example, any open permits can be queried by day, week, month, or any period of time in between. This allows members of the building department to quickly visualize spatially the location of all open permits and gives them the information to contact all necessary parties to begin the closing process. Without this upgrade, the user would have to sift through countless open permit database records making it much more challenging to manage and track the progress of closing out those permits.

GIS Informs Public of Neighborhood Speed Surveys

The speed at which vehicles travel can have a dramatic effect on a residential neighborhood. If there are particular streets or neighborhoods that vehicles have a tendency of driving too fast through, the public well-being is in jeopardy. The City of Park Ridge, IL Police department conducts a number of speed surveys throughout the year to measure the average speed on a given block over a period of time, generally in the week to ten day range. Using data from these surveys, decisions can be made to add additional signs, barriers, or traffic devices to decrease speeding if the statistics warrants it. However, the Police department wanted a method of having all of this speed survey information available to the public, without having the resident have to sift through a lengthy list to find information on their street. To accomplish this, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was chosen as the optimal way to display this information to the public.

A custom layer was created for the village’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™, a property information search program, showing all the speed survey locations completed in the city dating back to 2008. A direct link to this layer was posted on the Park Ridge Police website where a resident could search for a speed survey location by just typing in an address along the survey route. All relevant speed survey statistics could then be accessed by clicking on the survey line along the particular street. By having this information available to the public, residents can now be more aware of the speed survey program as a whole, along with seeing survey statistics for areas that they may have originally been inquiring about.

Tracking Progress in the City’s Police/Resident Interaction Program

​The City of Park Ridge, IL Police department has begun an outreach program for the city’s residents. The purpose of this program is to improve the relationship between the public and the department to potentially improve the overall service the department can provide. The program involves a police officer making personal contact with every address in the city. During each encounter, questions or concerns of the resident can be addressed by the officer. Tracking the progress can be daunting, however, with over 17,000 different addresses in the city. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was chosen as the best way to track the progression of this program.

To start this project, GIS created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with every city address broken down by police beat that could be used by the department to track the progress of the officers throughout the city.  A member of the Police department then fills in a status within the spreadsheet as an officer makes contact with that address. If contact was made with the resident, a "made contact" status is entered. If contact was not made, an "attempted" status is entered. These statues are then linked to GIS, where they are mapped automatically on a daily basis to the city’s browser-based mapping application, MapOffice™. Once the data is displayed in MapOffice™, department staff can visually see the progress made on a map and the statuses of each encounter. Staff also uses the map to determine the next city block scheduled for this project. Without GIS, all the tedious tracking by the Police department would have to be limited to just a spreadsheet or plotted out manually by hand from online map printouts.

Integrating the City’s Permit Program with GIS

Every community looks for ways to streamline operations to improve its productivity when serving the public. One way of doing this is to incorporate other application programs a community uses with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). For the City of Park Ridge, IL Community, Preservation, and Development department this involved looking to GIS to access information from their permits program through the city’s browser-based GIS program, MapOffice™. 

To start this process, a connection was created between the permits program and MapOffice™. Once the connection was made, the relevant data fields that would be displayed had to be decided on by community staff. In the end, only a small percentage of the available fields were chosen showing only basic information such as permit number, type of permit, important dates, and owner information. Once this was all setup, it was ready to be accessed by community staff. In order to use this tool, staff would use the Business Intelligence by Address task in MapOffice™ to select an address on the map. Once the address was selected, a popup window with all permitting information related to that address would be displayed, and the user could get the information that he or she was looking for.

By having this new connection between GIS and the permits program, a village staff member can now locate pertinent information regarding permits without actually having to open up the permits program. This increases customer response time either on the phone or in person when a resident is going through the permitting process. Another advantage with this setup is that additional information can be added or removed quickly and easily, based on a request from a user.  The hope around the city is that this is the first of many programs that GIS can integrate with to make staff more efficient.

Using Mobile GIS to Track Street Resurfacing Ratings

The City of Park Ridge, IL streets are constantly facing the wear and tear of everything from vehicles to weather, which leads to the roads needing to be resurfaced after a number of years once they’ve reached a certain level of damage. To better track which streets need to be resurfaced in a given year, city staff need to inventory them on a yearly basis and assign a numerical value to prioritize which ones are in the greatest need. To help accomplish this, the city leveraged a mobile Geographic Information Systems (GIS) application that allowed staff to go out and track this type of information in the field.

The street condition ratings used to prioritize the streets resurfacing program were collected using a mobile application called Collector. This application allows a user to collect GIS data out in the field on a tablet or other mobile device, add attribute information to it, and even add photos or other attachments to the geographic location. This information can easily be imported and accessed in a desktop GIS system, allowing for data collected in the field to be mapped and analyzed by the city’s GIS staff.   For the current year’s street resurfacing rating project, every street that’s maintained by the city was loaded into the Collector application and displayed based on the rating information that was collected from the previous year’s review. With the Collector application, the engineer leading this project went out in the field using a city iPad, determined the new street rating, and manually entered the new rating directing into the GIS data rather than entering it into a spreadsheet and providing it to the GIS staff for entry.  Once all the street ratings were entered for the current year, the engineer began the process of determining which streets need to be resurfaced based on the information captured using the Collector application. 

GIS Assists with Developing a Streetlight Inventory

A common challenge faced by many local governments is keeping an accurate inventory of its physical assets, and the City of Park Ridge, IL is no different.  Over the past several years, the city has been gradually building an inventory of its streetlights to allow for quick reference for routine maintenance, replacement, or even emergency purposes. To assist with managing this asset collection process of the city’s 1,500 streetlights the city’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) department was consulted to help development the framework and management process for collecting, maintaining, and most importantly, displaying the collected data for quick reference by city staff.

Using a handheld GPS unit, a city engineer collected the geographic location for all streetlight locations throughout the city. Once the data was quality controlled and attributed with the correct ownership and maintenance information, a comprehensive streetlight inventory was created in GIS and added to MapOffice™ Advanced, a mapping and property information program that all city staff have access to. Staff can type in an address and have the streetlight information display instantly using the application’s utility display tools.  Another added bonus that this project provided was that, once the inventory was built in GIS, it was cross-checked with a city streetlight location list provided by ComEd, which in turn resulted in the findings of a number of streetlights that ComEd was charging the city for that did not actually exist.  This inventory is also invaluable when it comes to reporting the location of a streetlight outage by allowing city staff to see exactly where it’s located on a property and which agency is responsible for fixing it.

Without GIS, a city employee would need to search through large binders filled with text based descriptions of streetlight locations.   That type of approach to identifying streetlight locations would be much more time consuming and result in increased workflow inefficiencies.  Having a location based, easy to access, visual tool for locating streetlights helps to streamline department workflows and increase turnaround time for dealing with light maintenance or ownership issue.