There is now an extensive natural resources inventory for New Paltz, pulling together information from wide swath of studies and reports that have been compiled over the years. This inventory — which will be made available both as a printed document and also as an online “story board” — is the product of uncounted hours by the members of the community’s Climate-Smart Task Force, who asked both town and village board members for feedback on their work at two separate meetings last week. Their goal is to have the inventory adopted by members of both boards, which will not only make it a handy reference tool for all community members, but will get both governments more points toward a silver Climate-Smart Communities designation. These designations have become a key criterion in the quest to obtain state funding for any number of local projects, which under Governor Cuomo is a competitive process that some local officials have compared to the Hunger Games.
Task force member Amanda Gotto was especially interested in feedback about the story board tool, which uses geographic information system technology to allow users to understand what natural resources and formations are in New Paltz, down to the level of individual properties. Weaving together data from a number of sources has revealed that some of the existing maps lack much detail, or are long overdue to be updated. It’s the state and federal maps of features such as wetlands and geology that sometimes have limited resolution.
It’s not yet available for the public, but based on the descriptions given at the meetings this story board tool is similar in function to the county parcel viewer, which has different layers including a satellite view, tax map information, election districts, flood and geologic maps and more. This tool apparently includes all of the natural resources included on that county page, plus data from other sources as well. For this tool the volunteers opted not to include the owners of specific parcels in the interest of privacy, despite the fact that this information is a public record and is listed on the county parcel viewer. Village trustee Alex Wojcik immediately realized that this tool could be used to understand the relationship between natural resources and housing by, for example, adding the village’s rental registry information as a layer. Supervisor Neil Bettez, though, was frustrated that not even all the existing layer can be viewed simultaneously.
Mayor Tim Rogers wanted to make sure that these data could be imported into the GIS software already used in the village, rather than asking them to learn an interface that they’ve previously rejected as unhelpful. As GIS is simply a framework for collecting these data, that doesn’t appear to be a barrier.
There’s information about the human occupation of New Paltz, but council member David Brownstein hopes to see that extended back prior to the European occupation of Huguenot Street. A number of resources were suggested for tapping on that front: the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, the community’s two historic preservation commissions, researchers at Historic Huguenot Street and local historian Susan Stessin-Cohn.
Much praise was heaped on the volunteers for bringing all this information together in one tool. Bettez seemed genuinely thrilled with the “democratization of data” the online version in particular represents. A number of people remarked on how easy the report is to read and understand. Julie Seyfert-Lillis, for example, called out the section explaining the importance of soil and understanding the different types of soil. Wojcik said that the geologic data reinforces the decision to building an area for skateboarding in Hasbrouck Park, as the bedrock is substantial.
Training sessions are being designed, in part using last week’s feedback. Volunteers are looking for the inventory to be formally adopted at the May 12 joint meeting of the town and village boards.