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UMPI and ATV Club collaborate on ATV trail map

ATV enthusiasts who enjoy riding around central Aroostook County can now explore every inch of the trails and always know where they are thanks to a collaboration with faculty and students from the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the Star City ATV Club. This first-of-its-kind ATV trail map was created using state-of-the-art GIS and GPS technology.

Dr. Chunzeng Wang, UMPI Professor of Geology, GIS, and Environmental Science, was approached in the summer of 2015 by Dick Howlett, who works for Facilities Management at the University and also serves as the Star City ATV Club President, about UMPI’s GIS Lab taking on a project to map the region’s ATV trails. At the time, there were no high quality, hard copy maps of these ATV trails available for public use.

“After initial contact from Mr. Howlett, I immediately realized there wasn’t a reliable, informative, and high-quality ATV trail map for Aroostook County and this project would be a great community service project for UMPI faculty and students,” Wang said. “UMPI’s GIS Lab has mapped nearly all non-motorized trails of the County and published trail maps—both interactive Google Maps and PDF version for printing hard copies—on the goaroostookoutdoors.com website. The Lab can do more to help promote local motorized trails, too.”

Wang recruited four students from his GIS II class—Jean-Pierre Dumond, Tong Liu, Tyler Brooks, and Thomas Collins—to help him on this project. Wang and Howlett worked closely together throughout the winter and spring months to gather important data points for the map: Wang had to check every foot of the trails for accuracy using GIS technology and reviewing with Howlett. When possible, Howlett would ride an ATV on the trails to allow for ground-truthing. Because the trails shown on the map have to be officially approved by the State of Maine, Howlett and Wang also worked closely with a state official in charge of ATV trails of Maine.

To complete the map, Dr. Wang and the students used multiple types of mapping methods, which included using hand-held GPS devices to map trails at Scopan Mountain. They took all of the data that was collected of the trails and transferred it to high resolution satellite images of central Aroostook County using the ArcGIS program, a program used in GIS for working with maps and other geographic information.

GIS [Geographic Information Systems] is an advanced mapping technology that is used for both precision and accuracy. GIS has the ability to combine useful data to make a single map. GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System, is a satellite-based navigation system that can be used to calculate a precise location anywhere in the world.

The completed ATV trail map includes not just the trails, but also picnic/rest areas, park and ride sites, seasonal gates, landmarks, roads, and locations of various sponsors. The map also shows topographic information that helps ATV riders better understand the terrain they’ll be experiencing on the trails.

The project not only allowed Dr. Wang and his students to work on an effort that benefits the community and the local economy, it provided an opportunity for students to learn hands-on, real world applications of both GPS and GIS technologies.

The final version of the map, which folds out to 2 feet wide by 3 feet long, has been printed at commercial grade and is being sold both locally and statewide. Wang and Howlett are discussing the possibility of creating northern Aroostook and southern Aroostook ATV maps in the future.

“I’m on the Trails Committee for ATV of Maine for the northern region and have seen many maps that have been put out by other clubs throughout Maine and, by far, this is the best map that I have seen,” Howlett said. “I can’t thank Dr. Wang, his students and UMPI for all the hard work that went into this map. Everyone who has seen it is very pleased and say that it’s time we had a great map of the ATV trails in the area.”

To learn more about UMPI’s GIS Lab and the community projects it does, please contact Dr. Wang at chunzeng.wang@umpi.edu or 207-768-9412.