Carson City, Nevada, named for the famous western scout Kit Carson, has always understood that people want information pronto. Not only was Carson City a key stop on the Pony Express, it also became the eastern telegraph terminal for a line running from San Francisco. Although the Pony Express and telegraph are history, Carson City remains a pioneer in information sharing technology. Today, Carson City’s information sharing harnesses a modern web-mapping platform, MapGeo.
Efficient information sharing is critical because of the many challenges facing Carson City, chief among which is its arid climate. A city of 55,000 inhabitants with an area of 157 square miles, the annual rainfall is the lowest in the USA at 9.5 inches (the average national rainfall is 30.21 inches). Water is at a premium, and wildland fires are always a threat. City planners need to manage water conservation/reclamation and potential fire hazards along the City’s extensive Wildland Urban Interface. In response, Carson City is building a modern map-based information system to share data efficiently using the MapGeo platform.
Darren Anderson, Carson City Engineering Project Manager said, “My primary use of MapGeo is for utility information but also for property layout, flood zones, elevation data and aerial data. It is easy to use and quick to access. MapGeo is probably the tool I reference most.”
“A great example of how MapGeo has helped our department is through improving our mapping data. In past years our crews would use paper map books, they would sometimes edit their paper maps when they saw mapping that was incorrect and that would sometimes make it back to the office to be updated in the official map books. With MapGeo, errors can easily be indicated, sent off for the maps to be corrected and, once corrected, the corrections are instantly viewable to all users,” said Anderson.
The Public Works Water Division manages an extensive reclaimed wastewater system for variety of needs: irrigation of the cemetery, sports complex, prison farm, golf courses and the Governors Field Complex. Through water reclamation, Carson City Public Works currently saves over 1 billion gallons of potable water per year by using treated effluent for landscape irrigation.
“I use MapGeo as the first source for utility information when putting together a capital improvement project. Often times when our development engineering department has a question that they need us to look into they will send an information request over to us with a hyperlink to a location in MapGeo so it is often the tool used to help in development discussions.
“When our utility managers and operators have issues they want to bring to our attention we will bring up MapGeo and load the specific utility layer in order to talk about the issue. MapGeo has our utility info, as well as other parcel info, zoning, and other information, I will use it to get general aerial information as well as street views,” explained Engineering Project Manager Anderson.
Carson City’s arid conditions are a perfect breeding ground for wildfires. The city’s fire department uses MapGeo to help facilitate the quickest reaction time possible.
Carson City Fire Marshall, Dave Rubin explained that he appreciates the “quick” response of MapGeo. “Screens draw quickly and information queries (click and identify) return fast.”
Two important tools that the city’s Fire Department tracks on MapGeo are Knox® boxes and the Fire Run Book.
With MapGeo, first responders have visual access to every Knox® Rapid Access System (a master key system) in the city. Removing the barriers to building access reduces injuries to responders and helps minimize property damage and the spread of the fire.
On MapGeo, The Fire Run Book includes a series of maps and tools to create a street index with landscape and portrait orientations. With this information fire personnel can diagram the most time sensitive route to the blaze.
Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)
Carson City has an extensive Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The WUI is the line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.
More and more people are leaving the cities and cleanly laid out subdivisions for the more natural setting "in the country”. While this is the envy of many homeowners, this movement "back to the country" creates many new problems for homeowners and firefighters.
First responders are challenged by dry vegetation, easily charred “natural look” siding, lack of accessibility to the property, and difficult access to far-flung properties.
According to Matthew Lawton, Asset Manager for Carson City Public Works, “We do have our Wildland Urban Interface boundary in MapGeo (along with many planning and development boundaries). The WUI is one of the many layers that can trigger special requirements for building and development. Our development engineering and permitting staff use MapGeo daily when reviewing permits for those special requirements.”
Carson City’s Parks Department maintains data on those buried in their historically significant cemetery. Lone Mountain Cemetery today encompasses sections for the Masons, Oddfellows, Catholics, Babyland areas, Hebrew, Grand Army of the Republic, veterans, and a city cemetery section that dates back to the territorial days. The forty-acre site contains memorials to Carson City pioneers of every denomination, ethnic background, and economic or social standing. Together they represent a unique cross-section of early-day Nevada.
Nick Wentworth, Lone Mountain Grounds Keeper said, “The Parks Dept. is relatively new to using MapGeo. We are currently using it as a database for Lone Mountain Cemetery. There are dozens, if not more than a hundred, significant Carson City residents from the past buried there including six of the first twelve Governors of the State.”
History buffs can use MapGeo to locate the tombs of such famous Carson City residents as Civil War surgeon J.M. Benton (1837-?), Mark Twain’s niece, Jennie Clemens (1855-1864) or, Zackery T. Wilcox, Crown Prince of the Whiskerinos. He had the second longest beard in the world, at fourteen feet.
Carson City also uses MapGeo to share information about their annual bike race. Every June, the City hosts an Epic Rides Off-Road Series. It’s a 3-day bike race and celebration for riders of all skill levels and their avid fans. This climb into the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada, with views of Lake Tahoe, Washoe Valley and the Carson Valley, is an exhilarating event for bikers and spectators. Carson City Senior Project Manager, Stephen Pottéy explained that in the past, race information was printed in the local paper. Now, they use MapGeo for public notice of street closures, race routes, and other race related information.
A Citywide Vision for Information Sharing and Costs Savings
“MapGeo is Carson City’s online mapping solution. MapGeo is available to staff in all city departments, as well as all members of the public. It is most used in public works, community development and the assessor’s office,” said Lawton. He added, “MapGeo has received positive feedback [from the public and city workers]. It is a modern mapping application that is browser agnostic and works well on mobile devices. It is intuitive and has a short learning curve and users become familiar with it in a matter of minutes.”
“MapGeo greatly reduces the number of phone calls and emails that I receive from staff and citizens asking for maps or GIS data. It empowers the user to search and discover this data by themselves, which frees up my time to build a better system,” said Lawton.