Crowdsource Reporter Keeps Florida County Beautiful

How Lake County Citizens Use Customized App to Clean Up Litter

By Sue Carroll, Lake County Board of County Commissioners

For most of its history, Lake County, Florida, was a rural community of clean lakes and citrus groves. Agriculture was the mainstay of its economy, and in the 1980s, it was considered a rural getaway from adjacent and fast-growing Orlando.

In the late 1980s, however, the county suffered a major blow to its citrus crops when two freezes killed off many of the groves. During the building boom of the 1990s and 2000s, development soared as grove owners turned their unprofitable agricultural lands into highly profitable housing developments.

Users can see all the litter sites recently submitted in the app and raise the priority of certain sites by clicking the Like button.

Users can see all the litter sites recently submitted in the app and raise the priority of certain sites by clicking the Like button.

As Lake County's population increased, the board of county commissioners was determined to maintain a quality of life in the area that would be attractive to residents and visitors alike. Part of this entailed keeping the county clean and litter free. So the county set out to get citizens involved in the project, and, as the board of commissioners quickly found out, the easiest way to do this was to use Crowdsource Reporter app from Esri.

Collecting, Prioritizing, and Using Community Data

To advance this initiative, Lake County recently became a local affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, a nonprofit that helps communities clean up litter and improve recycling. To do this, the county founded Keep Lake Beautiful, a volunteer organization whose mission is to beautify the area by engaging the community.

To start, the organization needed to determine which areas of the county are of most concern for addressing litter and other unsightliness. It also needed to figure out how to collect, prioritize, and utilize this information to facilitate local efforts to manage it.

The executive director of Keep Lake Beautiful approached Lake County's GIS division with these challenges and asked if there was a way to allow citizens to report areas of litter and map them for easy monitoring. After determining specific needs for the project, the solution was obvious: Keep Lake Beautiful would use Crowdsource Reporter, a configurable, web-based app template from Esri that allows citizens to submit data about areas of concern, as well as map them and attach photos to illustrate the problem.

A Simple Way to Report Litter

Lake County residents and visitors can access the Crowdsource Reporter app online via a link on the Keep Lake Beautiful website or from the Lake County GIS division's Interactive Maps & Apps Gallery. With the app, users can click the Report Litter tab to see all the litter sites recently submitted or under review. To submit a new report, users click the Submit a Report button, fill out a short form, identify the area on a map, and click the Report It button. They can document litter, graffiti, illegal signs, and abandoned vehicles. If a site has already been identified, other citizens can click Like in the app so the site garners more attention.

Using Crowdsource Reporter, citizens can identify areas with litter, illegal signs, graffiti, and abandoned vehicles.

Using Crowdsource Reporter, citizens can identify areas with litter, illegal signs, graffiti, and abandoned vehicles.

To make sure the app was compatible with Keep Lake Beautiful's needs, the GIS staff not only created the feature service for the collected data but also downloaded the code for Crowdsource Reporter to further customize the basic template. The GIS team added pertinent logos and map marker symbols, created a help section to assist new users, and manipulated the display for the information being collected. For example, the litter reporter does not display submitters' names or contact information, the description field, or any photos sent in—even though the basic template has those capabilities—to prevent any misuse of the information or public embarrassment.

Meeting Actual Needs

Keep Lake Beautiful monitors submissions and proposes cleanup efforts and community events as needed. The more map markers added to one area or the more Like clicks submitted for a particular site, the higher the priority becomes for community action. As sites are cleaned up, they are removed from the map to ensure that citizens only see current areas of concern.

"This technology allows us to reach out to the community with a user-friendly interface and allows Keep Lake Beautiful to mobilize its volunteers more effectively," said Brian Sheahan, the executive director of Keep Lake Beautiful.

Giving reporting capabilities directly to the citizens of Lake County also allows their voices to be heard. That way, the neighborhoods that they feel need the most attention become the focus of Keep Lake Beautiful, allowing the organization to meet actual needs.

Hosting the application and data on ArcGIS for Server and having county staff maintain it also allow better data management. The GIS team can extract specific information and report it to Keep Lake Beautiful's executive committee for audit purposes and to monitor the program's overall productivity.

There are financial benefits as well. Other than extra staff time (which was minimal), no additional expenses were incurred by Keep Lake Beautiful or Lake County itself.

For more information, contact Lake County GIS manager Sue Carroll, GISP, or Lake County systems administrator Brandon Barnett.

 
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