Web Exclusive: "Endless" Possibilities

December 1, 2009
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Steve Hubertus, LS, of Hornell, N.Y.-based Stephen J. Hubertus Land Surveyor, and Jim Ball, owner of Wellsville, N.Y.-based James Ball Land Surveyor, have received a lot of business locating and mapping oil and gas wells in their area--but they didn’t stop there. When they saw the breadth of information they could compile and map using the technology, they decided to create a spinoff joint venture that combines two of their passions: surveying and snowmobiling. Called Endless Trails, the business takes GPS to the next step--GIS.

“Jim was very active in a local snowmobiling federation, and we both felt that we could provide a service to area snowmobile organizations locating and mapping trails,” Hubertus says. “Most of these trails pass through privately owned property, and the New York State Department of Parks and Recreation, which provides grant money to many of these snowmobile clubs, now demands landowner information and permission for any trails that cross private land. However, the majority of these clubs and regions in the state don’t have an access to the GIS information required. It seemed a great fit for our expertise.”

Realizing that there was a real market for their services, Hubertus and Ball each upgraded their leased Topcon GR-3 units to newer GMS-2 systems, a move that they say has proven ideal for the new business. “We recently mapped 412 miles of snowmobile trails for Allegheny County,” Ball says, “and the Topcon GMS-2 was outstanding. Many of the area clubs are recommending over-the-counter GPS units to their members to gather info, but those smaller instruments simply don’t have the attributes that the GMS-2 has. As a result, in most cases, their users came back and reported that they weren’t able to collect enough data (landowner info) or weren’t comfortable with the procedure for collection. At that point, the organizations turn to us.

“Ultimately, what sells us is our ability to provide critical info you can’t get anywhere else,” Ball adds. “As we ride the trails, the GMS-2 accesses data from the real property tax department telling us whose property we are on, location, coordinates, etc.”

Hubertus says that without any post processing, they create an ESRI Shapefile with the GMS-2 and, using ESRI’s ArcView software, incorporate it into a base map the clubs can use. “However, we don’t just provide a detailed map of the trail,” he explains. “Each club also gets the GIS info to help them comply with state requirements. That’s really critical for them to qualify for the grant money that’s available.”

Other services offered by Endless Trails include trail planning and layout, data processing and management, review of mapping standards, and educating snowmobile organization members on use of recreational- and professional-grade GPS. “Having this technology available has really opened up a nice secondary business for us,” Ball says. “We’ve already done trail location work for Allegheny, Delaware, Sullivan and Steuben counties, and we feel we’ve only scratched the surface.”

Endless Trails’ Web site is www.endlesstrailsusa.com.

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