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SLO County uploads mapping imagery to ArcGIS Online in effort to bring better maps to county

Courtesy of Esri
Cal Poly students are using ArcGIS Online to create maps of the Cal Poly campus.

San Luis Obispo County has uploaded imagery to the Community Maps Program hosted by geographical information systems company Esri. Local officials, students and mapping experts say that will allow better maps of the county.

ArcGIS Online is a cloud-based mapping platform created by Southern California-based Esri.

Senior Product Engineer Shane Matthews said uploading imagery to ArcGIS allows SLO county to share its mapping data internally and with the public.

Matthews told KCBX News the mapping data provides citizens access to data and tools that benefit the entire San Luis Obispo community.

“They now have a great foundation to support some of the information products they’re creating, both the city and the county,” Matthews said.

One of these tools is called a basemap that acts as a reference for other maps and projects throughout the county, such as a map of county parks and trails, another map of food facilities and their inspection reports, and a map that shows the County Board of Supervisors districts.

Specifically, Matthews said all this new uploaded data allow Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students can create a better map of the campus.

“This means everybody on the campus benefits — facility managers, communications, IT, students especially, visitors, event planning. So it gives them the ability to create a better map and a better information product,” Matthews said.

Andrew Fricker is a professor of spatial ecology at Cal Poly. He said he leads students in participating in the Community Maps Program.

“We’ll focus on something, so it’s like hey, there’s the new dorms on campus. Those haven’t been added to the basemap yet, they’re not there, so let’s digitize those. Or there’s also been some community mapping where we go out into San Luis Obispo and map things that we feel are missing from the map, basically,” Fricker said.

Once students have digitized things like buildings onto the map, they push those edits to Esri, which then publishes them. Students then get to see their work on ArcGIS Online.

“It’s really gratifying for students because the students can see their edits basically pop up in the map in real time, and it’s like, ‘I digitized that building, that was me.’ So I think there’s that instant gratification for a lot of students that I think they really enjoy,” Fricker said.

Cal Poly student Camille Sanseverino said she’s using the county’s new uploaded imagery in her senior project.

“So the project is basically, we wanted to replace the map that Cal Poly was using on their Cal Poly app with something that’s actually usable for students, because the map that we have right now is just with Google. It doesn’t route you to buildings, it just routes you along the roads through campus which isn’t super helpful,” Sanseverino said.

Sanseverino said it’s gratifying for students to have access to this technology.

“You can see your progress being updated onto Esri’s basemap, which is also pretty rewarding. So, that’s been a really big project that a lot of people have liked,” Sanseverino said.

You can learn more about the Community Maps Program at communitymaps.arcgis.com.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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