Article by Fiona Davies, Volunteer Manager, Hidden Oaks Nature Center
Hidden Oaks Nature Center was recently awarded 3rd place in a county-wide Geographic Information Systems (GIS) competition. GIS refers to electronic maps with information attached to them. The award recognized the story map that site staff and county employees created for the 50th anniversary of the Center. A story map is an online site that tells a story using maps, pictures, and words.
Hidden Oaks actually has two story maps. The first, created for the anniversary, “Imagine the Next 50 Years,” is an evolution of the park, the building exhibits, and the surrounding areas. The second, “Habitats and Havens: Tour the Old Oak Trail” is a walking informational tour of the Old Oak Trail. The web applications are available on the Park Authority website.
“Imagine the next 50 Years” encourages viewers to consider how they can impact Hidden Oaks over the coming 50 years through learning about the last 50. The project served a twofold purpose – both communicating how the Nature Center has served the community at large and promoting the 50th anniversary event. Commercial aerial imagery supports the “Running Out of Room” section, while a photo taken from a helicopter shows the baseball fields after they were constructed. The “Expansion Through the Decades” section contains embedded web maps that users can expand to see how the park has changed from 1976 to 2019. Each section concludes with a reflection on how the next 50 years may evolve, while the app closes with a reminder that everyone can make a positive impact in their community.
“Habitats and Havens” makes a great tool for someone who lives far away or is confined to their home for some reason. For example, for grandparents so they can see and learn about the trail their grandkids walk on and ask them about it.
Both are useful to bring the past to life for young visitors who like Hidden Oaks and are interested in knowing what it used to look like. They also brings awareness to the historical and current importance of the nature center and the green space surrounding it and will hopefully spark interest in conservation and being mindful of the planet.
Story maps, technology advances nature. Do you have a story map in your future?