The city of Santa Maria soon will begin plotting every tree within its limits, using global positioning technology, in an effort to manage its urban forest and reduce the risk of fire. 

The project, a first of its type for Santa Maria, will cost $259,000 and will be paid for by Cal Fire, which provides grants to municipalities in order to maintain healthy trees and cut down the chance of wildfire. 

The information gathered will be used to plan how to grow or treat the city's more than 40,000 trees.

“During the inventory process, which will take a couple of years, locations of missing trees and potential tree planting sites will be identified,” explained Dennis Smitherman, management analyst for the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.

To complete the inventory, the city has contracted Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists Inc.

Crews will start to visit each tree in the city, plot it on a GPS map, take a photograph and assess the tree’s overall health.

“Each tree site will be designated an identification number, and characteristics of the tree will be recorded and maintained,” Smitherman said.

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The crews will also plot where trees may have been in the past or could go in the future.

“The grant funding will also allow the department to plant 500 new or replacement trees,” Smitherman said.

Trees are important to the city because they provide protection from wind and shade, as well as add beauty to the city’s landscape, according to city officials. 

The inventory is also important to the city as it will identify potential safety hazards from broken or unhealthy limbs or other falling debris.

“Proper management will improve the health of the trees and promote additional tree planting when needed,” Smitherman said.

When done, the information will be stored and maintained in a tree database.

“Efficient record-keeping will enable the city to schedule a maintenance cycle for such trees based on budget and necessity,” Smitherman added.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.