Web Exclusive - March 2013
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Bird's Eye View

Aerial Imagery
High-Res Technology Enhances Landscape Management

By Deborah L. Vence

With regard to the usefulness of multispectral imaging for working with parks and trails, Apfelbaum said, "AES has used the multispectral imaging for design, planning, engineering, monitoring and management, maintenance of park and trail plans and for many of the same uses as identified above for golf courses."

Meanwhile, the following are some additional uses of the imagery that Apfelbaum discussed for parks and trails:

  • Creating a live map for users of trails to report observations. If the high-resolution imagery is available on a park district website (or other hosting organization), he said, it is possible for users to precisely mark wildlife and other observations, including questions about trail maintenance, high risk settings, erosion, etc.
  • Planning, design and engineering of new trails. Apfelbaum explained that the "high-resolution imagery supports decisions during planning and construction to avoid individual trees and shrubs, and to ensure the trails are sited to minimize disturbances."
  • Monitoring trail conditions and maintenance needs. "Over large park district networks, using this imagery once a year to monitor trail surface and other conditions can save a lot of time and allows your staff to focus management dollars in the locations of highest priority," he said.
  • Creation of high-quality trail maps to enhance visitor experience and use of the parks and trails. Good high-quality mapping-presented as an overlay on high resolution aerial photographs-can create enthusiasm and promote trail use.
  • Support citizen science and "park friends groups." "Citizen Park and trail stewards can use this high-resolution imagery to do precise maps of invasive plant species and other observations and concerns. The use of the imagery as an outreach tool for engaging the community at large is a powerful way to build and maintain support for parks," he said.
  • Addressing real, perceived and political problems with neighbors. AES has used this imagery for creating an objective discussion about concerns with park management, such as where tree cutting to remove diseased trees occurred. In many parks, operations and maintenance employees go about their business of managing the parks, but this is often misunderstood by neighbors. This imagery actually has helped clarify and resolve misunderstandings.
  • Creating good park maps and showing regional greenway connections. He noted that the imagery is useful for showing trail connections, greenway routes across a municipal or rural landscape.

To boot, aerial imagery also can be used to create accurate maps of the effects of rainstorms. A manager, for example, can use imagery to detect failing stormwater sewers and drainage pipes. In addition, imagery can be used to map erosion upstream and downstream of a golf course. These images, combined with strategic field measurements, can be used by a golf course manager to respond to water pollution accusations that may be leveled at them when pollution problems arise in the watershed.