Saturday, September 26, 2009

AT Corridor Boundary Data Management Project

Project Justification:

In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), the primary goal of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Boundary Program is to serve as the guarantor to NPS and the federal tax payers to insure the long term protection of the $149 million investment in the 111,269 acres of NPS corridor lands acquired to provide a protective buffer for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. An additional $9 million has been expended by NPS to contract professional land surveyors to monument, mark, and map over 1,373 miles of exterior corridor boundaries in 11 states from VA to ME.

Over the last 25+ years, the NPS Appalachian Trail Land Acquisition Field Office (ATLAFO) located in Martinsburg, WV contracted 22 separate land surveying firms to perform the exterior corridor boundary survey work required to delineate the federally owned A.T. Corridor lands. Well over 60% of this mapping is from the pre-AutoCAD era and therefore exist only as mylar originals which are stored at ATLAFO. At present, paper copies of the A.T. boundary survey maps are run off from the mylars and are used primarily by Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) Boundary field staff and trail club volunteers to do the necessary monitoring, maintenance, and encroachment mitigation work required to protect this vulnerable corridor. With the increase in adjacent landowners, the threat level of encroachment due to such a large length of boundary and the increasing age since these surveys were completed (over 50% being 15+ years old), the need to incorporate this survey information into the existing AT GIS system has become critical. By incorporating this more accurate survey data into the AT GIS system, NPS and ATC will be able to more accurately deal with encroachment situations, assess land development changes in the vicinity of the A.T. corridor, and share this information with cooperative land management partners and adjacent landowners. Utilizing a GIS-based platform will not only enable NPS and ATC to produce more user friendly boundary survey and land ownership maps, but also enhance the existing AT GIS database system to accommodate the complexity of effectively managing the corridor lands, the condition of the surveyed boundaries, and tracking of past, present, and future maintenance data.

At present, neither NPS nor ATC have a common database to effectively capture and organize the monitoring and maintenance work performed annually along the A.T. corridor boundaries. Incorporating the boundary line and monument locations into a geodatabase along with their existing conditions, maintenance data, and discovered encroachments will enable ATC to more effectively fulfill their role as “guarantor” to NPS that the corridor lands are being properly cared for and managed. Using GIS technology will also enable ATC Boundary staff to query what areas are most threatened by probable encroachment, what areas are in most need of maintenance and boundary line reclamation efforts to re-establish the survey lines, and where annual staff time and resources should be budgeted and allocated to ensure the longevity of the surveyed boundary lines and the corridor lands they protect. With more surveyed boundary than any other national park and an average corridor width of 1,000 ft or less, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of the most vulnerable units of the national park system by encroachment via the thousands of Trail neighbors that share a common boundary with the National Park Service.

Which map would you prefer to have when setting out for a day of bushwhacking along the A.T. Corridor boundary? 


  1. This is a great idea. We have quite a bit of GIS talent up and down the trail. It would be wonderful to have a good set of monitoring maps and data that show access points, trouble spots, and help us better understand the land we're monitoring. I started this work for ODATC's section, but didn't get too far. Some central guidance and tools would be great. - Dave Wilcox

  2. I'm really looking forward to these new maps coming out. I saw a preview of these a year or two ago, and they are much better than the old ones. Now I'm just very frustrated that it's taking so long for them to get out to the clubs.