VIDEO: GIS Mapping in San Mateo County


SCA Crew puts California trails on the map.

by Rachelle Hedges

Thanks to the success of our two school year beta tests, we were able to launch the first ever full time SCA GIS Summer Crews SCA, fielding two (count ‘em, TWO) GIS youth-crews this past summer! The crews captured a huge amount of data, and having two field crews meant that I too was actually in the field – one of my favorite things in the world.

The crews mapped over 55 miles of trails, 10 miles of social trails and 71 trail intersections for San Mateo County Parks. They collected data on the condition of over 870 drainages, 200 signs, and 300 other maintenance needs on these trails. They also delivered a knock-your-socks-off presentation to the Parks Commissioners, a five person panel of real-live grownups that look just like you imagine a panel of commissioners would (think town hall meetings from TV shows). (If that did not paint the scene as intimidating, please believe me that it was – I was scared sitting there watching.)

The hard work of the student crew members, crew leaders and program coordinators was incredible. The openness with which everyone embraced the new technology used by these crews was phenomenal. But it was the speed with which the students learned to use the technology, and their ability to pick up complicated GIS concepts so quickly, that was truly inspirational. Yet again I was reminded of how amazing young people are. (You’d think I wouldn’t need reminding after 3 crews, but it still always takes me a bit by surprise…)

I have to admit, I’m kind of bummed that my time on this project has come to an end. I feel like gardener who planted all these great crops and has to leave just as they’ve started to grow. The great news is that even though I may not be here to see it, I know that this program will continue to grow and thrive. Funding for the program has already been approved for 2016, which means another year of GIS summer crews, another year of data collection and mapping, and yes, even another GIS Intern for San Mateo County Parks! Her name is Hannah and she is wonderful. She will be a great tender of this garden, and she might even agree to write a few posts to keep you all updated.

Because I’ll make her. Because I need to know what’s going on with my garden!

In the meantime, please enjoy this short video about this project and the amazing students that made it great.