GIS maps now available online

Duane Hicks

After six years of work, the town’s infrastructure almost has completely been mapped out—and some of these maps are now available online to the public.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maintenance expert Trish Law spoke to council Monday night, noting that since she was hired in early 2005, the town’s GIS database has been in a state of revision and collection.
This has been done through a combination of summer students collecting data using hand-held GPS units and verification of existing infrastructure data from service records and drawings in the engineering department.
To date, about 95 percent of the town’s infrastructure data has been field verified.
Through the collection process, assets such as water shut-offs and sanitary sewer clean-up have been collected and recorded, and this information now is being used to help with daily maintenance tasks of Public Works (mainly the sewer and water department and maintenance crews).
The storm sewer system data also has been collected, creating an overview of the system and its catchment areas.
This will be used for modelling in the future to determine areas that will need more drainage.
Law said GIS data is entered into the system on daily basis, and that files are updated for users twice a month.
GIS mapping is stored in three ways: desktop mapping, internal web-mapping, and external web-mapping.
Desktop mapping currently is used by Public Works, the Fort Frances Power Corp., and Planning and Development to assist with daily tasks for work crews.
This database contains “sensitive” data, including property ownership information, legal descriptions of properties, as well as other data, like sewer ages and the size and materials of pipes.
Internal web-mapping is done through a web server located at Public Works. All departments have access to the internal mapping system without relying on the desktop application being installed on each town computer.
The internal pages only can be viewed through the town’s internal network.
External web-mapping, meanwhile, is an information portal for the general public, and available from anywhere someone has Internet connection.
These maps offer generalized information, but do not contain “sensitive” data like the ones accessible by the town departments.
All the private information has been removed due to privacy laws.
This information portal can be found at
Under the notice labelled “Fort Frances GIS Links,” just click on the link you want to see. Remember to use FFGIS both as a login name and password to enter the site.
Users will notice several different maps are available to look at, including a general map, as well as ones providing more specific information, such as emergency evacuation routes and shelter locations.
“What they can see on the general map is, basically, their houses around town, the addresses, the streets, and if there’s services there,” Law explained.
The general map also highlights places of interest, such as the Memorial Sports Centre, Civic Centre, downtown core, and Sorting Gap Marina.
These can be “zoomed” in on through the use of “jumps” or links listed at the bottom of the map, which can be clicked.
Another map indicates garbage and recycling collection routes so residents know which area they live in and when their pickup is while yet another indicates the town’s snow removal plan.
Law said each winter the town receives quite a few calls from people asking why their street hasn’t been plowed, and if they’re on a priority route.
With this map, they can see where the priority routes are and the order in which streets are plowed after a snowfall.
Those viewing the maps may notice they’re made using aerial photography done in 2007, so they do not include newer structures, such as the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre.
Due to the expense of aerial mapping, new aerial photographs will not be taken until 2017.
Looking to the future, Law said the publicly-accessible GIS maps may get their own web page on the town’s website, as opposed to being linked off the “notices” page.
The “jumps” on the maps also may be linked to relevant departmental web pages, and the maps may become downloadable as PDFs.
There also may be the creation of service/infrastructure mapping pages for consultants to use, which would include limited access to data not included on the public maps.
As well, the town will start using the GIS maps to indicate construction notifications and detour areas, and to help create a preventive maintenance program for the town’s tangible capital assets.
When asked if, during the GIS data collection process, Law found infrastructure the town didn’t know it had, she replied that has been true.
For example, the town’s old AutoCAD maps showed there were 312 sanitary sewer manholes in Fort Frances, but Law said there’s actually 592.
Similarly, old maps indicated 450 water valves, but it has been found there’s 709.
“We’ve added a lot to the system,” Law noted. “We picked up infrastructure that was missing, we verified what was on the drawings versus what’s in the field.
“We found stuff that they thought they had but they don’t.
“It’s been a lot of work to verify,” she added.