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Spring 2002
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Wise County, Virginia, Puts Students on the Map

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U.S. Representative Rick Boucher described the Wise County WebGIS as the most comprehensive Web-based GIS in western Virginia.

Wise County, Virginia, is educating a new generation about the importance of mapping and GIS technology. Through the unique Wise Digital Earth Virtual Environment and Learning Outreach Project (DEVELOP) academic program, Wise County college and university students are gathering data from various local, state, and federal sources; building tabular data; and creating Wise County maps for the County's recently launched WebGIS system.

Miranda Shell, a student at the University of Virginia at Wise and a native of Pound, Virginia, is one of approximately 15 students who work with the DEVELOP program at the Wise County Circuit Court clerk's office.

"Each of us is assigned a topic that will be a GIS layer. My topic is parks and recreation," explains Shell. "I call places like the Department of Conservation and Recreation to get data about parks and recreation, camping sites, etc."

Using ArcView, the students create a layer based on data obtained during their research, which is then posted on the Wise County WebGIS site (located at www.courtbar.org or www.webgis.net).

Shell has learned a lot from her work with the DEVELOP program. "GIS can help the County economically," she says. "In addition to helping Businesses, the WebGIS can even help people relocating to Wise County see what kind of resources we have. With 50 different layers, the WebGIS provides a lot of information!"

Shell intends to use her GIS experiences in her future career as she pursues a Business administration degree and a GIS certification. "GIS is growing and will continue to develop in the future, so it is a great thing for young people to start learning about in college," she says. "Working with the Wise County WebGIS has been a great job opportunity for me."

The DEVELOP program is an outgrowth of the Digital Earth Program sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The primary sponsor of the Digital Earth student mapping program is the Wise County Circuit Court clerk's office, with the financial support of the Wise County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Center for Innovative Technologies, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, the Virginia Circuit Court Clerk's Technology Trust Fund, and NASA.

The Wise County DEVELOP program will continue at least into the fall academic year of 2002. DEVELOP program participants are Wise County natives enrolled in college or university study who participate in college-level GIS course work and independent research projects. In addition to creating GIS layers, the program participants give GIS instruction to Wise County public school students.

The Wise County WebGIS is expected to enhance local planning and economic development efforts in the years ahead. Jack Kennedy, the Wise County Circuit Court clerk, wanted public records and County data to be made available to citizens throughout Wise County through the use of technology. A solution for Wise County's needs was found in WebGIS, developed by Esri Business Partner Anderson & Associates of Blacksburg, Virginia. The Wise County WebGIS is based on Esri's ArcIMS and is accessible to the public24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the Internet.

By visiting the County's Circuit Court Web site at www.webgis.net or www.courtbar.org, viewers can download Wise County's tax maps, delinquent tax parcels, fire response districts, flood index maps, forest tracks, sewer and water lines, and railroads. Other available data includes zoning, roads, County boundaries, land contours, voting precincts, election districts, and corporate limits. Site visitors can add and remove layers, pan and zoom around the map, and identify features--all from a normal browser window on the Web.

The Wise County WebGIS is increasing public awareness of GIS throughout the County. Through the DEVELOP program, students are presenting GIS applications at Wise County board meetings and encouraging involvement by County agencies. County officials are now investing in desktop applications of ArcView because the majority of County information is being stored in a GIS format.

For more information, contact Circuit Court Clerk Jack Kennedy, P.O. Box 1248, Wise, Virginia 24293 (e-mail: jkennedy@naxs.com, tel.: 276-328-6111).

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