Snowmobile Trail Data Incorporated into E911 Systems
By Jane Mueller, Beltrami County GIS Director/E911 Coordinator
Imagine yourself in the heart of a state forest in the northern part of Minnesota, snowmobiling through the fresh powder with friends, secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife, and miles from the nearest road.
Now imagine a slightly different scenario. You and your group are winding your way through the trails in the state forest and get a little heavy on the throttle. You round a curve at 55mph and before you know it, you hit a tree head on with your machine. Although wearing a helmet, you are thrown from the machine and suffer severe neck and back injuries as well as a broken leg and cannot be moved.
Your group has no trail maps with them and hasn’t seen a well-traveled road in miles. A friend’s cell phone doesn’t work in the ravine where you had the accident, so he travels to the top of a hill to try to get better reception and calls 911 for help. The dispatcher asks for his location since his phone is one of the many brands that does not contain a GPS chip. The caller has no idea what the name of the trail is, nor how far they’ve traveled on it, but does know that the last major landmark they passed was about an hour ago. When asked to describe his surroundings, all he can say is “thick pine trees and ravines” as far as he can see.
This type of scenario happens quite frequently in the northern part of the state, so local snowmobile clubs in Itasca and Beltrami Counties have worked together with their sheriffs and GIS Departments to map and sign all trails. Trail names now appear not only at the beginning and end of each trail but are also printed on mile marker signs located along the trails; this aids recreationists and emergency services with vital information needed to locate individuals in the case of an emergency.
Through the fundraising and volunteer efforts of the local snowmobile clubs, posts and signs have been purchased and installed. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also aided this effort through grant monies which allowed the Minnesota Conservation Corps to assist clubs in the collection of trail data using GPS. Bemidji State University geography students also participated in the project. Once the data was collected, it was converted to GIS format and names were assigned to each trail. Using this technology, the actual numbers of mile marker posts and signs needed were calculated for each named trail and purchased accordingly.
The GIS trail and mile marker files are utilized in the County’s E911 mapping system and directly correlate to the features on the ground. GPS coordinates are included as attribute data for each mile marker location and for the starting and ending point of each trail. In the event an individual needs to call for help along the trail, they will be able to state the closest mile marker and trail name which a dispatcher can then easily locate using their mapping software resulting in a much faster response time by emergency service personnel.
Beltrami County Snowmobile Trail System map -- click to see larger graphic
Snowmobile clubs participating in the project were:
North Country Snowmobile Club
Lost River Trails Snowmobile Club
Grygla Snowmobile Club
Fourtown Snowmobile Club
Blackduck Snowmobile Club
Nashwauk Stump Jumpers
Itasca Drift Skippers
Greenway Snowmobile Club
Itasca Snow Rangers
Lawron Trail riders
Marcell Snow Drifters
Swampsiders Snowmobile Club
38’ers Snowmobile Club
Deer River Bushwackers
Haypoint Jackpine Savages
Northome Ridge Runners
Eagle Country Snowmobile Club
Questions regarding this project can be directed either to Sherriff Pat Medure, Itasca County Sheriff at 218-327-7470 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Jane Mueller, GIS Director/E911 Coordinator at 218-333-8457 (email@example.com).