Almanack Contributor Steve Signell

Steve Signell

Steve Signell is the owner of Frontier Spatial, L.L.C., an Adirondack-based company offering mapping and data services. He splits his time between Schenectady and Long Lake, where he punctuates his time at the computer with stints on the fiddle and banjo.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Era For Collaborative Mapping In The Adirondacks

ADKmashupMap

In a recent blog post about Washington County’s new interactive webmap, I alluded to the new and exciting opportunities maps like this present for collaborative mapping in the Adirondacks.  To illustrate these opportunities, I’ve created a ‘mashup’ map that brings together data from several sources, including Washington County, Long Lake / Raquette Lake, and Newcomb, along with some data collected at a more regional level as part of an Adirondack Partnership project I was peripherally involved with.  The mashup map can be viewed by clicking here.

I had to do some custom coding to bring the data together and add features like the type-ahead search box in the upper-right and the quick zooms, but the actual information is being pulled ‘live’ from online databases maintained by each of these entities.   So when Washington County, Newcomb or Long Lake adds a new restaurant, modifies the route of a hiking trail or changes the contact info for a hotel, it is immediately reflected not only on their map, but also on my mashup and any other sites pulling from their database.  » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A New Interactive Map Of Washington County

WaCoScreenShot

Washington County launched a wonderful interactive webmap a couple months ago.

Created for the county by Jimapco in Round Lake, NY, the map is user friendly and playful, and includes amenities such as dining, lodging and services as well as attractions like covered bridges, agri-tourism and arts.  It also includes several ‘tours’ in and around the county, including fiber, maple, beverage (aka wine and beer!) and walking and bike tours for selected locations.   This map has several other nice features like dropdown lists for each layer that allow you to quickly zoom to attractions and information packed popups that will even give you driving directions. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Mapping Resources From The Adirondack Park Agency

APA-GIScapture The Adirondack Park Agency has some of the most skilled GIS (Geographic Information Sysytems) analysts at work in the park, and they have also been very proactive in sharing their mapping resources with the public.    I thought Adirondack Almanack readers might be interested in some of the new additions to the agency GIS page found here: http://apa.ny.gov/gis/

Some of the new products include maps of Park Webcams (with links so you can see the live feed), USGS Stream flow stations, and a newly released (Feb 2014) version of their meticulously curated ‘Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map and State Land Map’ that now includes the newly classified land in the Essex Chain lakes between Newcomb and Indian Lake. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Steve Signell: A Recreation Web Portal Fail

PortalFailThe Adirondack Recreation Web Portal was released at the end of January with much back-slapping and horn-tooting from Governor Cuomo and other involved parties.  Upon closer inspection, however, it is clear that this web ‘portal’ falls far short of expectations.

In an Almanack post last October I described the project and outlined some of the expected functionality of the new site, including what I described as “a strong mapping component, rather than the menu/catalog driven approach used by most Adirondack recreation sites.”  The opportunities afforded by modern online search and mapping technologies presented an incredible chance to build a truly useful, fun-to-use, map-based virtual gateway to the Adirondacks.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Interactive Map of Essex Chain Lakes, Upper Hudson River Wilderness

finchMapScreenCaptureThere’s been a lot of conversation and controversy about the Adirondack Park Agency’s recent classification of new state lands in Newcomb, Indian Lake, and Minerva.

I thought people might want to have a closer look for themselves, so I created an interactive web map showing the new land acquisition and classification scheme.

The url is: http://adkwebmap.com/finchpruynMap.php

If you’d like to see the aerial imagery for the area, click on the ‘Imagery’ toggle located under ‘Basemaps’  on the sidebar.

 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Public Lands: How Does Your Town Rank?

adkHamletBuffersSortI’ve often heard people say that there’s either too much or not enough public land in the Adirondacks.  I thought I’d crunch some numbers and let readers explore the data for themselves:

I put together a map visualization that shows the relative proportion of public land, trails and lean-to’s around the interior hamlets of the park.  The land classification figures are probably very accurate, as they are derived from the Adirondack Park Agency’s Land Classification and Land Use map.   If you notice some strange numbers for biking and horse trails its because these trail types have not been as diligently classified in the DEC trails database as hiking and snowmobile trails.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Adirondack Recreational Web Portal In The Works

adkGoogleMapsScreenShotI have to confess, I love Google Maps, and not just because I’m a map guy.  Google Maps is my “go-to” when exploring unfamiliar territory. There’s a reason why Google Maps is the most popular smartphone app.  Forget browser searches—it is far more efficient to just type in what you’re looking for into Google Maps, and presto- you have a nice interactive map showing the nearest examples complete with links and (mostly) accurate directions, not only for driving, but also bicycling, public transit and even walking.

However, you may have noticed that the usefulness of Google Maps declines as you get into the Adirondack Park.  » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Adirondack Maps: Mapping Drought Conditions

It’s been a bit surreal to read about this summer’s record-breaking drought from the lush, thunderstorm-drenched environs of Long Lake.  But while the central Adirondacks may have had plenty of rain this summer, other parts of the North Country have not.

I have been tracking drought conditions across the region with stream gage data from US Geological Survey that measures stream levels and transmits the information in real-time to the internet.   The USGS began stream gage construction in the late 19th century, and now maintains 7,500 gages across the country including dozens in the Adirondack region.   The data from these gages are used for many purposes including flood forecasting, water supply allocation, wastewater treatment, highway engineering and recreation (rafting anyone?). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Adirondack Maps: Legislative Redistricting

It amazes me how cartographers continue to develop new ways to visualize spatial information. One example I thought might be of interest to Almanack readers is a website allowing the user to explore maps of New York’s new legislative redistricting, finalized in March 2012.

The website, hosted by the CUNY Center for Urban Research, gives users three ways to compare old and new legislative maps: side-by side, overlay or slider. My favorite was the overlay tool, but each has its advantage depending on what you want to get from the map comparison. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Adirondack Maps: Evolving Land Classifications

The other day at a recreation planning meeting in Lake Placid, I participated in a time-honored Adirondack meeting ritual. It goes like this: someone at the table brings up the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), the document that defines land classifications (wilderness, wild forest, etc.) and lists the guidelines for their use. Next, nearly every stakeholder at the table agrees that the SLMP is outdated and that a major review is long overdue. The ritual concludes with everyone agreeing that meaningful review of the SLMP is unlikely, and probably not worth pursuing. The conversation then moves on to other topics.

The SLMP states “Major reviews of the master plan will take place every five years by the [Adirondack Park] Agency in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation, as required by statute…” but the last review was in 1987. I wondered how implementation of the relatively static SLMP has evolved over the years, and how these changes have manifested themselves on maps. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Adirondack Mapping: Parts But Little Known

The Adirondacks have long been a bit of a blank spot on maps. From the time Jacques Cartier first glimpsed the Adirondack Mountains from Montreal in 1535 until the mid 1700s (long after coastal and more populous areas were mapped in great detail), the remote and mountainous Adirondack region was represented only by terse descriptions such as “This Country by reason of Mountains, Swamps & drowned Lands is impassable & uninhabited,” or “Parts but little known.” But Adirondack history is full of explorers, surveyors and cartographers who underwent great risk and hardship in order to fill in these blanks.

By 1900, thanks to the work of men such as Verplanck Colvin, the basic geography of the park was well-known. The beloved 7.5 minute USGS topographic quads we are all so familiar with were the culmination of this effort, and they have undergone only slight revisions over the last hundred years or so. But an interesting thing has happened in the last 30 years with the rise of computers and their ability to overlay map layers in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Maps and the way people use them have changed radically.

People today are not satisfied with paper maps that merely portray the geographic arrangement of features; they expect maps to be full-blown search engines where they can explore the virtual landscape and then connect instantly to information about map features. Prospective visitors don’t want to just see where a hotel is, they want to click on it and get information about room availability, prices and contact information. Hikers don’t just want the location of a trail, they want to know its difficulty, its condition or how much use it gets.

With all these new expectations, the Adirondacks once again lag behind more populous areas where the work of connecting geographic features to attribute information has advanced further. So, while perhaps not quite as risky (thankfully) or romantic as it once was, there are still many people working to improve the quality and quantity of spatial data and produce ever better maps of the Adirondacks.

Thanks to the proliferation of inexpensive GPS units and free web-based GIS applications such as Google Earth, members of the general public are now active participants in both data collection and map production.

If cartography is the art of producing a map, anyone who has printed out GoogleMap directions is an amateur cartographer! For specialists such as myself, this has been a paradigm shift that has changed our jobs radically. We now must think not only of how to manage the incredible amounts of spatial data being created, but also how best to communicate that information to the public. To conclude my first post, I’d like to highlight one elegant example of how modern technology can communicate spatial information in new and exciting ways.

John Barge, GIS specialist for the Adirondack Park Agency, has made many map resources available on the APA’s GIS page. I encourage you to browse through them all, but I’d like to feature a particular resource John has produced– a downloadable .kmz file that superimposes historic bird’s eye maps of several Adirondack communities onto the virtual landscape of Google Earth. A quick video tutorial can be found here.

I look forward to future posts on Adirondack spatial matters, and to reading your comments!

PS: Thanks much to the Almanack for having me!

Illustration: Richard William Seal. “New and Accurate Map of the Present War in North America, 1757”.