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Summer 2009

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Carver County, Minnesota, Encourages Exploration

Recreation Information Portal Promotes Active Living with GIS


  • The team built the TRIP platform using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.
  • The portal includes a Web mapping framework compatible with Carver County's Esri-based enterprise GIS.
  • The portal presents data in a concise, cartographically appealing manner for people with little or no GIS experience.

Carver County, Minnesota, is located just southwest of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Home to more than 86,000 people, Carver County is the state's fourth fastest growing county. Recently, Carver County embarked on an initiative to further develop its Active Community Planning program by creating an information portal for the discovery and exploration of active living opportunities within the county.

ArcGIS Server technology allows users to view photo points of trails and parks throughout the county.

Through collaborative efforts and data sharing between multiple county divisions and various city planners, Carver County gathered information to create a county-specific gateway to activities and opportunities associated with active living. The gateway, a Web site appropriately named GoCarverGo (, was launched August 1, 2008.

To help set the GoCarverGo initiative in motion and encourage citizens to access the county's dynamic trail and park information, Carver County established the Trail and Recreation Information Portal (TRIP). TRIP, an interactive Web mapping application, enables citizens of Carver County to locate parks and trails utilizing an interactive GIS.

"This project serves as a great example of collaboration between a number of local government organizations," says Peter Henschel, GIS supervisor with Carver County. "It would not have been possible without other organizations providing information on trails, parks, and photo points to create an accurate countywide GIS."

To assist in the design and development of TRIP, Carver County enlisted the services of Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI), and Esri Business Partner GeoDecisions. Carver County selected HEI and GeoDecisions based on the team's project management approach. HEI and GeoDecisions proposed a six-phase technical approach, including requirements, design, application development, testing, deployment, and maintenance, with the last phase being the responsibility of Carver County. For officials at Carver County, this was very appealing because it gave the county control of future releases and modifications.

Prior to application development, key project stakeholders from Carver County and the HEI and GeoDecisions team attended a joint application design (JAD) session to discuss the goals of TRIP, as well as desired functionality and software requirements. One of the primary goals of the portal identified during the JAD session was to develop a simple yet effective mapping application. Because the majority of the portal's targeted audience has little or no GIS experience, the design had to minimize the number of tools and "clutter," as well as present the data in a concise and cartographically appealing manner.

Another goal of the portal was to develop a Web mapping framework that would be compatible with Carver County's Esri-based enterprise GIS. The framework also needed to provide for future Web mapping needs. To meet this goal, Esri ArcGIS Server technology was selected as the development platform. Following system design, the HEI and GeoDecisions team recommended TRIP be built using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript.

The API was selected because of its ability to satisfy both of Carver County's goals of implementing a user-friendly interface and compatibility with its existing enterprise GIS. To better display important GIS-related information, the ArcGIS API for JavaScript helps meet additional goals, including increased performance as a result of reduced server-side computation, enhanced map visualization and efficiency, and the utilization of map cache services. The ArcGIS API for JavaScript also provides a framework that is cross-browser compatible and easy for administrators at Carver County to customize with future enhancements.

"Carver County has been very pleased with the performance of the portal, as well as its easy-to-use tools developed using the API for JavaScript," says Henschel. Now, with only a few clicks, a variety of trail and recreational alternatives can be identified through a number of search options in the application.

TRIP can be accessed at The portal provides a variety of Web-based mapping functionality, including

  • Aerial view
  • Hillshaded topographic background
  • Hyperlinked MapTips
  • Ability to search for recreational opportunities based on address and a specified distance
  • Ability to zoom to a specific park or trail
  • Ability to transfer latitude and longitude coordinates to Microsoft Virtual Earth's Bird's Eye Application or

GoCarverGo has received acclaim from various stakeholders throughout the southwestern Twin Cities metropolitan area. According to Henschel: "We have received very positive feedback from our community partners who assisted with data collection. There is already talk of making enhancements to the application and adding more recreational features maintained within our GIS database, thereby giving users more opportunities to become active in their communities."

More Information

For more information, contact Peter Henschel, GIS supervisor, Carver County (e-mail:; Brian Jensen, project manager, GeoDecisions (e-mail:; or Brian Fischer, project manager, Houston Engineering (e-mail:

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