Your One Stop Shop for Maps and Geographic Information cteco.uconn.edu
Technology has expanded the mapping world. No longer are maps static and flat. They are now interactive, zoom able and clickable. They allow focus on a location or a question and enable us to explore our backyard, town, state and world.
The Connecticut Environmental Conditions Online (CT ECO) website has become the de facto place in Connecticut to access statewide interactive maps. Anyone can browse natural resource layers, aerial imagery, elevation and more. In 2019, over 30,000 people explored Connecticut by visiting CT ECO, which is a partnership between Extension faculty from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) and the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
Because not all (or probably even most) of those 30,000 people are Geographic Information System (GIS) experts, CT ECO is designed to meet the needs of visitors with varying levels of technical expertise. Alongside all of the maps is an extensive amount of complementary information in the form of Data Guides, Help documents and How-to explanations.
The simplest map access is through the Map Catalog, that contains over 9000 pdf maps that cover every town in Connecticut. These same maps can be purchased at the CT DEEP store in Hartford.
There are currently 12 interactive Map Viewers on CT ECO and the list is growing. Popular Viewers include the Simple and Advanced Map Viewers, both of which contain a long list of map layers mostly maintained by CT DEEP. The Elevation Viewer hosts the state’s elevation information in the form of highly detailed ground topography including elevation values as well as hillshade, slope, aspect and 1-foot contours. Also incredibly useful is the Aerial imagery Viewer that contains 12 statewide sets of aerial imagery between 1990 and 2019 along with six coastal and regional datasets.
Project-based viewers are topically focused. The Long Island Sound Blue Plan Viewer is one of the most recent, providing access to the long list of data layers that are part of the Long Island Sound Blue Plan. Other Viewers include Sea Level Rise and Coastal Road Flooding Viewer, the Aquaculture Mapping Atlas, the CT MS4 Viewer that focuses on stormwater and the DEEP Inland Waters Fish Community Data Viewer.
Finally, mapping professionals and enthusiasts can connect to CT ECO map and image “services” within their desktop or online GIS. The Map and Image Services page lists the over 100 available services.
Users, Uses, and Benefits
Responses to a survey conducted regarding the value of CT ECO revealed the breadth of users. They come from private business, state agencies (like Department of Transportation, Department of Economic and Community Development, Department of Safety and Public Protection, Department of Labor, CT DEEP and even the Office of Film, TV & Digital Media), regional and local government, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, utilities, citizens and more.
CT ECO is also used by hikers, landscape architects, land trusts and metal detectorist clubs (who knew?). The wide audience reflects the broad uses of CT ECO, such as preparing site assessments, permit applications and permit review, engineering projects, traffic plans, wetlands applications like identifying vernal pools, review of site conditions, identifying zoning violations, locating addresses, habitat suitability models, trail maps, forestry, coastal resilience, mining archaeology, appraisals, school projects and more.
It is difficult to put a dollar value on the services provided by CT ECO. Certainly having a central, statewide repository for mapping data, limited as it might be, reduces redundancy and increases efficiency. Many respondents from the survey report saving significant amounts of both money and time. Several users estimate saving over $100,000, with others stating that the time saved is “immeasurable.”
A State of Connecticut GIS professional said, “CT ECO has become the default location for accessing GIS data within the State of Connecticut. The work that the CT ECO staff has done to provide this data to the public has been nothing short of extraordinary.” It is exciting that UConn Extension is filling the critical need for so many different users and uses of Connecticut’s geospatial information.
Article by Emily Wilson