Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Open Space Aide: My Summer Internship with the City

This Summer, I had the opportunity to work with the Sustainability Department for the City of Flagstaff.  I work under the Open Space Specialist, which makes me the Open Space Aide.  I really like this part-time job since it combines my skills and knowledge on GIS, sustainability, and planning!

My Typical Work Week

So, I work 15 hours a week.  Which might not seem a lot, but when you are outside for 15 hours, you get very tired.  When I first started in June, I was going in around 8:30am and would get off around 1:30. I wanted to work three 5 hours days.  The three 5 hour days seem to work well for me.  I spend my extra two days catching up on chores and relaxing.  It is Summer, after all.
Since monsoon season has began (intense rainstorms),  I've been going in around 7:30 and finish right around noon.  The thunderstorms begin right around noon and into the afternoon.  I am not afraid of rain, but Flagstaff gets a lot of lightening activity.  If I see dark clouds form or hear thunder, I get to the vehicle as soon as possible.  I can always make up for my missed hours. 

What do I do, exactly?

Map of Observatory Mesa
Well, I walk around in the woods with an iPad! Well, it's not just anywhere in the woods, really.  I'm walking around 2,251 acres of Open Space land, which is known as the Observatory Mesa.  After a bond and a grant from the Arizona State Parks, the City of Flagstaff was able to obtain 4 sections on the Mesa as Open Space.  Since this land is considered Open Space, it will never be developed and will continue to serve as a space where people can hike, bike, horseback ride, dog walk, and even hunt on.  Since people have been using the land before the City acquired it, there are several unofficial trails and roads.  So, it it my job to walk around and record all of the trails, fences, and roads that I find.  Also, I record trash piles, points of interests (like awesome views), and illegal campsites. The City will like to eventually establish official trails, trash pick up activities, and do trail reconstruction on the data that I collect.  They want to see what is up there, so they know what they can/should do.
-Overall, I don't come across much trash.  I find some historic trash that must stay at its location.  Now and then, I find plastic wrappers and bottles that I just pick up and properly recycle when I get back in the office.  I've found more barbed wire piles at most.

What do I use?

As I stated, I use an iPad 2 that has the ESRI Collector app on it.  I use the app to record the trails, roads, and points of interest.  I have a Verizon HotSpot "JetPack" which gives me data while in the woods.  Lastly, I have a Garmin Glo, which is a GPS enhancer for the iPad.  It connects via bluetooth, and gives me an accuracy of 5 meters.  Also, I have a nice backpack to through all of my equipment in, and get to use a city vehicle on the mesa. 

Additional Tools I Use

I've been looking at Forest Service maps to see what roads are suppose to exist.  Also, I've been using OpenStreetMaps and Strava Heat Maps to see what information has been posted by the public.  

How Much Do I Walk?

On average, I hit my FitBit goal at 10,000 steps a day.  I vary from 4 miles to I think 7 miles one day.  The first section I walked was really flat, so it was easy for me to knock out several trails during one day.  The southernmost section drops significantly in elevation, which can make me extremely tired by 11am.  

Overall, it is a great summer internship for me.  I pick my own schedule.  I walk around the woods with a GPS.  And I use my spatial analysis skills to see where there may or may not be trails.  I haven't done much on the creation and designing of the maps, but that's fine with me.  I'm getting my steps while learning more about my field.

Here is more information on the City of Flagstaff's Observatory Mesa Open Space! :) 

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