GIS helps Boise beef up parks management
Since 1990, Boise, Idaho, has grown rapidly, creating an escalating demand for parks and recreational facilities. With 80 city-owned parks totaling more than 2,000 acres, the Parks and Recreation Department had difficulty managing inventory, maintenance and budgeting for each of its sites. In March 1999, the department implemented a GIS-based tool that allows it to manage its properties more efficiently.
Prior to developing the GIS, the city used two tabular database systems for parks facility maintenance and management; the Project Inventory Management System tracked the status of maintenance items, and the Preventive Maintenance Management System tracked the financial ramifications of facility maintenance. Those databases were stored in large notebooks that were difficult to update and handle. As a result, division managers often did not have the information they needed for ordering supplies or budgeting for capital improvements. Recognizing the inefficiencies of that approach, the department contracted with Spatial Dynamics, a local GIS consulting firm, to develop a GIS-based Parks Information Management System or GeoPIMS.
The first task in designing the system was to describe and compile the data used by the department’s various divisions, including Horticulture, Forestry, Infrastructure and Planning. The information was gathered by interviewing division managers and obtaining copies of paper forms used by each division for tracking items and tasks.
Using that data, Boise conducted a pilot study of a single park. The first data layer identified the surface (i.e., turf, asphalt, concrete) for the park and the corresponding purpose (soccer, parking, walkway). Parks and Recreation staff then used GPS equipment to locate and characterize other items such as signs, picnic tables and trash receptacles. Data on the structural components and condition of each item was recorded along with its spatial location.
After completing the pilot study and refining the database design and applications, staff members compiled data across the entire parks system for city-wide use in maintenance, planning and other functions. Each division is responsible for updating that information, which can be accessed only by authorized staff. For example, when forestry workers plant a tree, they locate it on the park map and enter information on type and planting date into the database. Similarly, if infrastructure workers replace a sink in a restroom, they update the database. (Backup mechanisms have been established to protect the integrity of the data from human errors.)
The system is based on a custom ArcView application, which supports the direct import of GPS data, GIS data and AutoCAD files. As new parks and features are developed, the staff can integrate the information directly into the system. By using GIS technology as the foundation for its management operations, the parks department is able to generate fast, visual responses to database queries across the entire parks department.
This article was written by Trevor Adams, operations manager, and Patti Murphy, community relations coordinator for Boise Parks & Recreation.