Sparks's Diary

Recent diary entries

A few days ago I wrote about my plans to map the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, putting each segment into its own relation (and then putting all relations into the main MtS Trail relation). This has now been completed!

There are a few more things that need to happen to complete this trail.

  • Alternate routes need to be added.
  • Drinking water, toilets, and other points of interest need to be mapped along the trail.
  • Roadways need to be aligned (trails look pretty good, I think).

It will definitely take a while to complete these tasks but perhaps if done by section it will make it a slightly easier to keep track of the tasks.

The North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail extends from, as you might guess, the mountains of North Carolina to the ocean. The last time I had looked at the MtS website I noted that the trail hadn’t been fully fleshed out yet. There were many partial sections but they weren’t all linked up. Now everything is linked up with a few proposed changes coming over the next few years.

Because OSM data reflected the partial trail, I’m working on verifying the data that is currently there as well as adding the missing data. I’m also breaking up the overall relations into segments, as per the MtS website. I’ve currently mapped (or confirmed the existing data) for Sections 15-18 (516 km!). I hope to have all of this finished within the next week or so.

Location: Stacy, Carteret County, North Carolina, 28581, United States

After updating lots of opening_hours changes, as well as adding new delivery options and takeout only tags, I realized that I was missing a subset of food resources: food banks and soup kitchens.

With so many people likely not able to get to work, these resources may be more heavily relied upon than normal and knowing where these resources are, and when they are open, will be very important to people. I even added the free bag lunch, snack, and breakfast for kids from the school system.

If these resources are available in your area, but aren’t on the map, I encourage you to do the research and put them on the map!

Location: Watson Estates, Prince Frederick, Calvert County, Maryland, 20678, United States

Lots of changes to our geographic landscape has been happening since the beginning of the Corona virus pandemic (COVID-19). No, the land masses haven’t changed that much but I’m guessing that your local stores may have changed their operating hours and whether or not they are doing delivery, etc. I recently brought this up on the talk-us list but I didn’t really get the discussion I was hoping for going there. So what to do?!

The question

The question I had was:

“Do we change all of the information that we know to no longer be true and ‘fix’ it, if only for it to be a temporary fix for what we all hope will end up being getting back to normal?”

It’s a hard question to answer. Many of us have invested lots of time collecting this original information that we certainly hope we will be returning to soon. On the other hand, we know that the information that is currently on the map is incorrect and is no longer useful to our end users.

The answer?

For me, the answer was to update the businesses with what we currently know to be correct. This means that going out and resurveying a lot of businesses in my area and attempting to gather the new operating hours, whether they are doing takeaway only and maybe they have started doing delivery (this goes for grocery stores as well!).

To me, this is all about serving my community and trying to provide near real-time information to people that need it. OSM isn’t just a bunch of lines on the screen, it’s a place to find information about what’s going on around you and help you find what you are looking for when you are looking for it.

I think we all hope that everything we knew before the pandemic is still what will be after the pandemic, but we simply don’t know.

What this means for me (and other cartographers like me).

For me, this means that I am surveying all businesses (generally food establishments at the moment) and determining if any changes to their existing entries need to be made. I am also making a list of the businesses that I’m updating so I can re-evaluate those once this whole thing is over. Honestly, I think we’ll all be re-evaluating all of these businesses after everything is over.

I’m also not taking on a huge area but rather just my local community. It’s manageable for me to do this. I know that this is extra work for me but I’m signing on for it.

Should you do it for your community?

If you are able to commit to fixing what’s “broken” today, and then fixing it again in the future, I’d say go for it. But, this will take commitment. We certainly don’t want “pandemic data” to be left around after things have returned to normal (whatever that is).

Location: Stoakley, Prince Frederick, Calvert County, Maryland, 20678, United States

Over the weekend I found myself in Apex, NC and got a good look at the rail lines in the area. That spurred me into working on aligning and labeling the rail lines in the area. So far I’ve worked my way along the D&S Spur line between Apex and Durham, the Aberdeen Subdivision line between Apex and Cary, and the H-Line between Cary and Durham.

My next plans are to run the H-Line to Goldsboro then jump on the EC-Line to New Bern to connect up with those lines since I’ve already aligned/verified those.

More to come…

Location: Apex, Wake County, North Carolina, 27502, United States

Over the past few days I’ve been working on aligning, verifying, and adding track to the existing railroads in northeastern North Carolina. The majority of the work extends down the old Norfolk Southern, now Carolina Coastal, tracks from Plymouth to Chocowinity to Greenville to Winterville. Once in Greenville I continued north up the CSX line to Parmele.

These lines were in need of work as they were way out of alignment and, many times, incorrectly categorized. In some locations, such as the PCS Phosphate plant in Aurora, the only lines that were mapped were the old ones that no longer exist.

I also did spot checks around the state port in Morehead City, Camp Lejuene, and Cherry Point MCAS. There is still work to be done…

Items to be completed

  • Line between Morehead City and New Bern.
  • Line between New Bern and Chocowinity.
  • NCRR line between New Bern and points west.
  • Line to Camp Lejuene.
Location: Chocowinity, Beaufort County, North Carolina, United States

Tomorrow marks an important change in the Anne Arundel County Public Library system. First, for the first time ever, all libraries will have the same hours of operation. Next, “branch” libraries have been renamed “community” libraries. Last, two libraries, South County and Provinces, have been renamed Deale Community and Severn Community.

All these changes have been made in OSM along with making sure that complete addresses, a phone number, and web address are current.

Mapping East Carolina University

Posted by Sparks on 23 December 2013 in English (English).

Not sure why I care (except for maybe that I didn’t do it while I was there) but I’ve been trying to fix much of the mapping data for Greenville, NC and, specifically, East Carolina University. My alma mater has never been accurate on any map that wasn’t university-printed. For the several years I was a student there, and then afterwards when I worked there, one could say that I lived in a perpetual construction zone. There were always buildings going up, roads closing or getting moved around, and new paved “trails” being created to help students get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

Using the Bing satellite imagery (which is sorely out of date) I’ve been working on updating the maps and getting the road names in place to make it easier to find things. Of course no one on campus really looks at road names so I’m also working on tracing the buildings and make sure they are all named correctly. Hopefully any new student will be able to simply turn on their phone and route to a building via foot or bicycle and get good, accurate routing information. Hopefully I’ll get this project complete and will be able to go back and visit to verify that they haven’t done something strange in the past 3-4 years (since the imagery was collected) and built a building somewhere unexpected.

Location: Uptown District, Greenville, Pitt County, North Carolina, 27835, United States

After reading the request for assistance for mapping the Carles area I decided to spend a couple of hours and see what needed to be done. Most of the blocks were completed so I spent most of my time just validating the blocks that had not yet been reviewed. I found a couple of additions that needed to be made but mostly all the blocks were complete. It appears that the task is now up to 100%! Awesome work to all that contributed!

Greenville NC needs help

Posted by Sparks on 5 December 2013 in English (English).

I laughed to myself when I saw a previous home town mentioned in a blog post discussing Battle Grid. I wasn’t really active in OSM when I lived in Greenville so I really never looked at the data that much (I think I did map some of the East Carolina University campus since it is usually a black box of blankness).

Tonight I thought I’d take a look at the data to see what all the talk was about. First the southside of Greenville look like a spider web. Forget the missing roads from the explosion of housing that has happened over the past few years. I’m not sure any of the roadways are even remotely in the correct location. Wow! I’m not sure if anyone is actually using this information or not but it is awful.

I’m working on aligning the roads in that area now and will go back to fill in the blank spots. Hopefully someone on the ground can start populating street names and the like. The next time I’m in town I’ll try to grab a few and see what I can get done.

Location: Bell Fork, Greenville, Pitt County, North Carolina, 27858, United States

Plymouth, NC updates

Posted by Sparks on 4 December 2013 in English (English).

Over Thanksgiving holiday I spent some time cleaning up my old home town. I’m pretty happy with the roads within the city limits now. They are mostly correct and contain speed limits and side walks (where applicable).

I did a survey of the downtown area but then lost the captured data. Since I was in a hurry the data was incomplete so I’m not going to be upset with the loss of information (my error completely, btw). Next time I’m in town I’ll try to get pictures and address information and get those businesses on the map.

I still need to update the roadways in the Weyerhaeuser/Domtar industrial complex. The railroads were mostly wrong but I was able to remedy those issues in an hour or so. The roadways are going to be more difficult as they are everywhere (I believe the place is completely paved over).

I was also happy to find speed limits on most of the roads along my route from Maryland to North Carolina. Some of the speed limits were incorrect on I-664 and I-64 in the Hampton Roads area but I went through and updated them.

Location: Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina, 27962, United States

Deale addresses

Posted by Sparks on 4 December 2013 in English (English).

I’ve found a new tool, Keypad-Mapper 3, to grab address information in a pretty efficient manner. So far I’ve mapped my way to the post office and back. Since the cold weather is starting to sneak in I probably won’t be out there doing much survey work right now.

Location: Deale, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 20751, United States

Patuxent River Park, Prince George County, Maryland

## Park Roads The roads in Patuxent River Park aren’t bad from what I’ve found so far. They are incomplete towards the southeast side of the park, however, and I’ll be adding that information in the future.

Today I made a few minor modifications to the existing roads.

Park Trails

None of the trails are in OSM. I’ve started mapping them but there are several miles left to go. If the weather continues to hold out perhaps I’ll have them done in the next few weeks/months.

Location: Jackson Landing, Prince George's County, Maryland, United States

Mapping Deale

Posted by Sparks on 11 December 2012 in English (English).

The Tiger maps of Deale are in pretty bad shape. Anyone that has driven around this town knows that there is no such thing as a straight road. The Tiger maps would make the town look very straight and cornered.

Today I was able to verify or modify a couple of roadways in the Deale area. As I get more time I plan to the bigger roads and then the smaller roadways on bicycle once the temperatures warm up more.

Location: Deale, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, 20751, United States

Hilton Shopping Center

Posted by Sparks on 27 May 2010 in English (English).

Stopped by the Hilton Shopping Center, today, and grabbed some addressing data for the stores contained within. Still working on tagging them all appropriately but they at least have names and/or addresses associated with them. The building is properly labeled as is the parking area.

Location: Hilton Shopping Center, Hilton Village, Newport News, Virginia, United States

Lake Maury Natural Area

Posted by Sparks on 22 March 2010 in English (English).

I'm working on mapping the paths and roads that crisscross the park. My GPS tracks are a little rough at times but definitely usable. Also, there are many trails out there that I may not know about.

I hope to have one additional trail into the system later tonight.

Location: Lakeside, Newport News, Virginia, 23606, United States

The wife and I were out geocaching in an off-the-beaten-path area of the Newport News City Park when we found an unofficial bike path. So we went as far down the path as we could before getting our feet wet and traced the path back to the road. The trail to that point has been added to OSM.

Location: York County, Virginia, United States