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Vol 39  No 2
Aug. 31, 2006


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Memorial helps community group devise map of hiking trails

Trail blazer

by Jeff Green

Dr. Rodolphe Devillers, an assistant professor in Geography, and Andrew Cuff, a fourth-year student in the department, have been working with the Torbay Environment and Trails Committee to help map traditional trails in the town.
(Photo by Jeff Green)

A unique partnership between the Department of Geography and a non-profit group based on the Northeast Avalon has resulted in what’s likely the first-ever community trail mapping project in the province.

Memorial has been collaborating with the Torbay Environment and Trails Committee, a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the town’s natural areas, to help document traditional trailways and footpaths in the community. Through in-kind support, the use of top-notch equipment and computers, and the supervision of a summer student, Memorial has been able to help the group create a computer database of most of the town’s hiking trails, highlighting their degree of difficulty and their various locations in the town.

It’s a big project that wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership with Memorial, said Madeleine Florent, secretary with the Torbay group.

Torbay Environment and Trails Committee volunteer Judith Blakeley ­ an associate professor in Memorial’s School of Nursing ­ gets some help from Andrew Cuff to learn how to use a hand-held GPS unit. Mr. Cuff spent this summer working with volunteers like Ms. Blakeley mapping various trails and paths in the community.
(Photo by Dr. Rodolphe Devillers)

“As far as we know no other community has done this type of trail mapping before. The database that has been developed is quite extensive and can be used by the town for a multitude of tasks, such as town planning, map production, etc. in addition to providing a map of our trails.”

Memorial lent her group Global Positioning Systems (GPS) which they took along as they hiked the trails. After a quick crash course in how to use the hand-held devices, 12 volunteers set out to map several dozens paths in the town.

That information was then passed over to Andrew Cuff, a fourth-year Geography and German major who is also completing a diploma in Geographic Information Sciences (GIS). He spent the summer working in Memorial’s GISciences Laboratory, editing and mapping the data volunteers collected. Mr. Cuff said the end result will be a solid inventory of trails and paths throughout Torbay.

“This work also has brought the committee’s and the town’s attention to the potential of GIS and its ability to manage geographic data and mapping,” he said.

The environment group will also have a complete geographic database of their town, added Mr. Cuff.

This type of community partnership is nothing new for Memorial or the Department of Geography. In fact, this current project actually began four years ago under the direction of Dr. Alvin Simms, associate professor at the GISciences Laboratory. He provided assistance and advice to the environment group before passing the reigns over to Dr. Rodolphe Devillers, an assistant professor who teaches cartography and GIS mapping.

For his part, Dr. Devillers said collaborating with a group committed to preserving traditional trails in a growing town, gave this project special meaning for him, especially since he’s a new resident of the town.

“I was astonished by the number of trails you can walk in Torbay,” he said. “I’m convinced this initiative will encourage Torbay citizens to walk more and discover new places. This is probably the most important outcome of the project.”

And that’s exactly what the Torbay Environment and Trails Committee is hoping will happen. By the end of the summer, Ms. Florent said Memorial will provide her group with a map which they can present to the local town council.

“Eventually we would like to produce a trail map which will be available to the public that promotes all the trails and historic areas long these paths in the town,” she said.

“This has been a fun and educational project for all of us.”

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