Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 14, 2017

Tracks and Tales: Tying It All Together

By Steve Anderson

We are blessed as a society to each have our own hobbies and activities that we enjoy during our time off from work.  For me, on my recent day off, I explored the ice fishing opportunities in some of the properties that the WCCB manages.  One of these involved a three-quarters-of-a-mile walk in, but you can go there electronically.  Hopefully, doing so will help everyone understand a really neat project all departments of Washington County are currently involved in.
To get to where I was, first go to the following Web site:  http://co.washington.ia.us/.  You are now on Washington County’s home page.  This entire site is about to be upgraded, including a major upgrade to our department within it.  Therefore, please bookmark it and visit it often over the next few months!  The top link in the “important links” section of this page is the Geographic Information System (GIS).  Click on that and it will take you to the page with latest aerial photographs of Washington County.  There is an icon on this site that has arrows with x and y coordinates on it.  Click on that.  In the top line type -91.8762329 (don’t forget the minus) and the second line type 41.2169387.  Then click on “add point.”  The program will zoom in and you will see that you are in the middle of the north pond on the Schmitter Heritage Area!  Odds are that an error in typing the coordinates will put you in the Pacific Ocean, since that is the largest area on the Earth.
Immediately below the water at the point that we are now visiting is one of several tree piles placed by WCCB staff.  The Schmitter Heritage Area, prior to Doyle Schmitter is donating it to you in 1997, was a rolling pasture.  As you might imagine, it had quite a few “extra” thorny, thorny locust trees.  When we built this pond in 1999, I had our maintenance technician at the time cut and treat these trees, and placed them into this pond before it filled.  He reported to me that each tree cut seemed to ALWAYS fall right on him.  Hopefully his splinters are gone and the scars are mostly healed.  More seriously, he remains a friend and I hope he takes time to go fish them now.  I sure like them better in the bottom of that pond than in our pickup tires!
Tying all of this information and technology together is an exciting new challenge.  The Conservation link to this Web site will be going through a huge upgrade, with the above being just one of the many vast improvements we foresee.  As a similar example to help explain it, we will be reviewing the History & Management Plan for the Kewash Nature Trail during the March meeting.  With this technology, we will have an inventory of existing drainage structures and their condition, making it practical for current and future managers to prioritize the needs for this property.  
We have many, many other visions for how you, and we, will be able to use this exciting new technology.  When all is said and done, we hope that it excites you enough to actually take that hike back through the Schmitter Heritage Area!