Sunday, September 25, 2016

Maps for Every Occasion

It wasn't too many years ago that everywhere we went, one of the first things we bought was a street map. Years before I needed those, I was always sending off in the mail for topographic maps, as a good Boy Scout, to plan and carry out hikes wherever I happened to be living. With our lives these days being so digitized, it's a relief that cartographic resources are so freely available to us through personal computers. The kind of maps that I am able to pull up through my county's geographic information system (GIS) portal may be the truest reflection of local geospatial reality in all of cyberspace.

The type of map that has recently been most beneficial to me is a combined street, topographic, and property map. I printed a collage of these showing every house in the area around Lake Lariat at a scale convenient to paste on a foldable piece of cardboard, which I can carry wherever needed. The resultant map allows me to plan my bike rides in search of dog walkers and to track where I have found allies in my quest to improve our poop scooping score.

My foldable map also helped me to locate and size up a particular private property that is a prospect for limiting runoff into the lake through work that I hope to do as part of my Watershed Stewards Academy capstone project. After contacting the owner, I found out that the area where I hope to work is also part of an easement, which my street/topo/property map does not show. There may be other links or layers available that could have shown me this, but I suspect that there are still significant datasets that are not yet loaded into the county's GIS.

In planning this capstone project, another GIS, the Web Soil Survey, will be helpful in knowing how to treat the soil for all the plants we will be putting in, though soil tests will be performed to corroborate and refine that information.

Once the project is complete, we can apply yet another map-based tool, the Stormwater Management and Restoration Tracker (SMART), to claim credit for how much this project will help the watershed. Anybody can use SMART to claim credit for particular stormwater practices that have been installed on their property. In my case, that includes four rain barrels, a rain garden, and conservation landscaping. A good way for a watershed steward to get to know how in-tune people are to stormwater management is to do a local survey in order to populate SMART for those households. This would also be a way for organizations such as the Lake Lariat Preservation Committee to track and map work done in the lake watershed to improve water quality and reduce runoff and to reach out to constituents in order to raise issues related to lake preservation.

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