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Students Partner with City on Mapping Project

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July 9, 2011 by wcobserver

Photo by Susan McCarthy - Using GPS/GIS units, Greenland EAST Students, Bret Arnold, left and Ryan Duchanois, walk along Hwy. 265 in Greenland last Thursday entering data and taking photos of the city’s wastewater outlets. The duo is working in conjunction with the City of Greenland to create drainage pattern maps that will help the city obtain a federally mandated permit for wastewater elimination.

By Susan McCarthy

GREENLAND – Part summer job, part community service, and part self-prescribed summer school, two Greenland High School students have spent their first month of summer mapping the city’s storm-water drainage outlets. The police chief is involved, but these guys aren’t in trouble, they’re working on a real-life project that will help the city of Greenland meet a federally mandated requirement.

The project is a partnership between the City of Greenland and EAST Initiative students from Greenland High School. It is being funded by a $10,000 EAST After Hours Grant awarded to students for projects completed outside of class time. The EAST model of education encourages students to find problems in their communities and then develop projects to help solve them. A series of conversations between city officials and John Diesel, who facilitates the EAST initiative at the high school, revealed a real need for the storm-water mapping project.

Police Chief Gary Ricker said the City of Greenland is required to have a permit for wastewater elimination as part of the Clean Water Act. To get the permit, the city needs a map of all of the city’s drainage patterns. He said it’s ironic that Greenland has to meet this requirement because it is typically only required of urban areas, but Greenland’s close proximity to Fayetteville demands they submit a plan and obtain a permit too.
Ricker says larger cities have dedicated staff to complete this work.

“The city only has me,” he said. “These are good kids, smart kids. Both of them are as smart as whips,” said Ricker.

Armed with GPS/GIS(Geographic Information System) units, and a can of tick spray, Ryan Duchanois and Bret Arnold spend four to six hours a day, walking along the streets of Greenland, entering data and taking photos that will generate maps, charts and reports for all of the city’s water channels. When completed, the city will have a map that shows the city’s storm-water drainage patterns in relation to street grids, zoning, and existing water and sewer lines. The students are paid an hourly wage from the EAST grant for their work.

“I definitely know the city of Greenland a lot better,” said Duchanois, 16, as he scampered up a bank in thigh-high weeds along Hwy. 265.
Duchanois said that the duo’s recordings will measure the depth, width and surface type for each waterway. He added that city officials will be able to see everything collectively on a map. They will be able to zero in on any specific area and see the specific traits and even a photo.
Arnold, 17, said they’ve met a lot of nice people from the community while working on the project. He pauses, smiles and then hesitantly adds that one man they spoke to last week was convinced they were part of a government conspiracy.

“People ask what we’re doing,” said Arnold, who added that a lot of people have shared their recent flood stories with them.

This project is not the duo’s first introduction to GPS/GIS technology. Robyn Dennis, Research Associate for the U of A’s Center for Advanced Spatial Technology said that these students first took a two-day training course several years ago when they were middle-school students. Dennis said she has been an advisor throughout the wastewater mapping project, first to ensure it was feasible and then to provide technical support as needed.

“I think this is a great example of an EAST project that’s really valuable to the community and it allows these students to make a contribution to their community at such a young age,” Dennis said.

“She’s really been quite a lot of help,” said Diesel who added that Dennis was formerly a landscape architect and is very familiar with the work they’re trying to do.

The project should be completed in the next few weeks, said Duchanois.

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