The City of St. Paul, Minnesota has an extensive and popular trails system that is enjoyed year-round by citizens and visitors alike. Although many have trodden the paths for years, an inventory has never been taken to determine the condition, how the trails are being used and how often, or even the number of miles of trails owned – until now.
The Division of Parks & Recreation is inventorying its trails system using the GS50 data collector from Leica Geosystems. The ultimate goal of the Trails Project is to create short- and long-term plans to maintain, upgrade and augment trails in an organized and cost effective way.
Leica’s GS50 collects accurate and reliable real-time submeter-level data results in the field. The system features a rugged handheld terminal with a full QWERTY keyboard and can track GPS signals through foliage with its patented MaxTrak™ technology. The capabilities of the GS50 made it possible for the staff to carry and operate the system on the trails easily, and gather data through the thick foliage around the trails.
Using the GS50, the staff at the City’s Division of Parks & Recreation is collecting precise information about the paths for the first time, such as which are being used for walking, biking, jogging or nature watching, which are more heavily littered, which are being overrun with invasive plant species, and which are in excellent, good, or poor condition.
Initially, a Trails Codelist was created to handle virtually any condition encountered in the field. Materials (bituminous, concrete, gravel, dirt), Width, Condition (excellent, good, poor, or critical) and Designated Use (biking, hiking, skiing) were deemed the most essential attributes, which became the basic parameters for field data gathering.
The data was checked for quality and positional accuracy in Leica Geosystems’ GIS DataPRO™ office software, and transferred to the Division’s GIS-specific network station. Final data “scrubbing” was completed within ESRI’s ArcView software.
In the past two months, workers have gathered data from about 50 miles of trails, averaging 4 miles per outing. The data collected is helping fill in holes that have existed in the database for years. Once the Trails Project is completed, plans are already underway to collect and map underground utilities, habitat restoration, prescribed burns, scenic vistas, public art and signage inventory data with the GS50. The Trails Project is scheduled for completion in Fall 2002.
The information gathered with the GS50 will benefit the citizens of St. Paul significantly. Maps and information brochures will contain better and more accurate information; trail safety and usability will improve; trail signs will be more visible and clearly-marked; the Division will be able to post trail information on the Web; and the data will allow the Division to analyse the effectiveness of its resources accurately and use its budget more effectively.