As a hiker myself, I first visited the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) website in search of information about the trail system with little knowledge of the incredible structure the organization has in place for creating and publishing hardcopy and digital maps. Thus, the genesis of this article and an overview of how FLTC makes all of the digital content come together.
Established in 1962, the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) mission is to “… to build, protect, enhance, and promote a continuous footpath across New York State. Forever!” With administrative offices near the Mt. Morris Dam Visitor Center in Mt. Morris, New York, FLTC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which works in cooperation with its members and various organizations to develop and maintain the premier hiking trail system in New York. The Finger Lakes Trail System includes the main Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) from the Pennsylvania-New York border in Allegany State Park to the Long Path in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The main FLT is 580 miles long. There are six branch trails and 29 loop trails and spur trails that extend from the main FLT. These branch, loop and spur trails currently total 412 miles. Including the Main Trail and all branch, loop, and side trails, the Finger Lakes Trail System offers 1,000 miles of hiking. Today, more than 1,400 individual and family memberships currently support the FLTC of which approximately one fourth actively volunteer to operate the organization and its programs. The sale of maps and GPS track data help build and maintain the trail system.
FLTC also recognizes Sponsors which are individuals or organizations which formally accept responsibility for maintaining a length of trail in the FLT System and Affiliates which are hiking clubs and Scout troops that operate their own local hiking program and sponsor (maintain) their section of the trail system. The FLTC is a Partner of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) and cooperates with that organization and the National Park Service in maintaining and promoting that portion of the FLT that carries the North Country National Scenic Trail. The FLTC is also a member of the Great Eastern Trail Association (GETA) and is constructing a branch trail of the FLT system (the Crystal Hills Trail) that will carry the New York portion of the Great Eastern Trail.
Mapping and Cartography
Since the early 2000s with advancements in GPS technology and digital data collection, trail mapping responsibilities within the FLTC have been increasingly assigned to the Trail System Management program within the organization. Within this structure, the mapping of new and/or changes to trails fall on the responsibilities of volunteers trained in use of GPS devices – either their own Garmin device or an FLTC-owned Garmin Montana. FLTC maintains detailed specifications on what GPS devices are acceptable and how they are to be configured. The GPX file from the walk is emailed to the mapping team which is currently under the direction of Greg Farnham and Jo Taylor). Following a very detailed process document, the mapping team uses Garmin Basecamp to edit the official, unfiltered GPX track, which is referred to as the “trail centerline”. There is adequate iteration with the person who walked the trail and the Regional Trail Coordinator (RTC) overseeing that section of the trail where the data is being collected to ensure an accurate rendition of the (trail) data has been collected. Regional Trail Coordinators and other FLTC administrative positions are highlighted on the organizational chart on their website. Continue reading