The Project

T he Open Source GIS in Rural Townships project was the “capstone project” for the then-Pennsylvania State University MGIS candidate Howard Yamaguchi.  The intention of the on-going project is to deploy open source GIS tools at the township level here in rural northern Michigan and:
  • have local township staff and/or community volunteers create their own GIS products (such as maps needed for master plans, planning commission and township board meetings, and township information dissemination),

  • deploy interactive web versions of these GIS products using open source tools (web maps created either by the graduate student or by township staff using data from GIS products),

  • derive methods for township staff/volunteers to maintain these products, and

  • document the results and “lessons learnt” in the process.
This website provides the background, methodology, early products, and some  lessons learnt for this project, in which participants from five townships and one NGO worked with the graduate student.  Together, they used open source Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools to create GIS data products and web maps for their respective organizations.

The Background subsection describes the GIS situation in some small, rural townships in northern Michigan.  This project is an outgrowth of the need to address the issues described therein.

The Participants subsection introduces the various local units of government (LUGs) and their personnel who, despite their busy schedules, volunteered to participate in this ground-breaking project.  None of the participants are full-time professional GIS staff.   Yet personal interest and enthusiasm inspired them to add yet another task to their oversubscribed professional or volunteer time to learn and use open source GIS tools for the benefit of their LUGs and constituents.

The tools used by the participants and the philosophy behind the tools are set forth in the Open Source SoftwareOpen Source Desktop GIS and Web Mapping subsections.  These pages and their subpages describe the basic tools and procedures followed by the participants in producing various GIS maps and associated web applications.   The procedures described here will be revised as participants discover and master new tools and methods to accomplish their tasks.  

The Sustainability subsection describes one of the goals of this project, namely the development of methods that would let the participants continue to produce and edit GIS data products and web apps beyond the initial stages of this project.

The Resources page list and link to the numerous on-line resources that cover the various tools and techniques that the project participants encountered in the course of this project.  These resources include on-line documentation, downloadable PDF and other document files, tutorials (both video and on-line), forums, blogs, and mailing lists.  

The Project Tutorials subsection of the Resources section lists some of the bumps in the road encountered while embarking on this journey of discovery.  (Some problems are common to all users of open-source tools, while others are peculiar to the policies set by the State of Michigan in their dissemination of GIS data.)  This section comprises many "how-to" pages that guide the participants in working around these problems.

The website sections for the participating entities (Acme, Blair, Clearwater, Elk Rapids, Whitewater and TART) in this project serve as a gallery of their accomplishments to date, and provide sections for the participants to record their reflections on this project as they embark on their journey to the world of open source GIS.  These reflections, we hope, will benefit readers from other similar local units of government and NGOs who plan on following in the current participants' footsteps.

Finally, the References section serves as a bibliography page for the various and sundry references made in the text of this website.

We hope that you find the information contained in this website useful in planning and starting your own open source GIS program!