Sunday, October 4, 2009

My National Parks and ArcGIS Explorer




On Sunday September 27, 2009, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) began a new video series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. The series, by filmmaker Ken Burns and writer Dayton Duncan (great geohistory author too), explores the birth, growth, and continued evolution of national parks in the United States. From various trailers on the PBS site, it promises to provide inspiration and a call to action for all of us: Participate in and steward these American jewels.

As I explored the Web site I noticed an area where you can share your story and alsocollect park badges. Working through the little app, I tagged and dated “my parks.” Result? I discovered that to date I have experienced 92 of the 391 “park units” in theNational Park Service (NPS) system beginning in 1966 with the most recent in 2007. Nice map app, but I wanted more: What about mapping “my parks” in a richer way with ArcGIS Explorer (AGX)?

As it turns out only 58 of the 391 units are designated as national parks, so I decided to start there. First order of business was searching for data for the parks. Finding bits and pieces, I ended up creating my own database using sources found at Wikipedia and the NPS. (Download nps_parks.csv.)

Launching AGX, I selected the Streets Basemap and then selected “Text Files” in Add Content.

In adding the CSV file, I was prompted to make some setting choices—including Title and Description Fields.

The parks were now on my map.

From there I wanted to do three more things: Modify the symbol and its size, rename the park folder (right click), and save my work.

By holding down the Shift key and selecting all of the parks, I changed the Appearance of all locations at once.

I chose an appropriate icon and increased the size of the symbol for continental viewing.

Before going any further I saved my work (Save As: ArcGIS Explorer Map) with a name like USparks.nmf.

Ready for a little exploration, I moved my cursor over the symbols showing the names of each, and a click on one launched the NPS URL.

Stay tuned: In the next installment we’ll create a subset of the total park list just showing the parks I have explored, and more.

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