(As of August 2009) – By Tom Rogers
In 2007 the NCBTS Board of Directors felt that it was time for an update to the existing set of seven individual “Section” maps that covered the path of the North Carolina (NC) portion of the Bartram Trail (BT). So a Map Team was chartered to produce a new BT map.
After the membership of the team was established, the first thing to be done was to determine the “characteristics” that we wanted to be included in the map. We internally developed a list of desired characteristics and canvassed other hiking organizations/map makers for their “lessons learned” in developing their map(s). In particular, we were interested in the manner in which the volunteer, non-profit organizations (such as ours) went about developing/creating their map(s).
We are deeply indebted to folks from the following organizations for freely sharing with us their experiences and advice on “how” to go about this task: The Foothills Trail, The Benton McKaye Trail, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Mountain to Sea Trail and the Map Division of the National Geographic Society. Their help kept us from stepping into many “potholes” along the way.
As a result of the “mentoring” received from the organizations listed above, we decided not to attempt to completely develop the new map “internally” with an all volunteer organization. Thus, we sought a grant that would allow us to hire a cartographer and an experienced commercial map printer.
We did decide, however, to re-affirm the path of the BT and the location of its main features (e.g., water sources, campsites, vistas, road accesses, etc) with an internal, all-volunteer effort. Thus we walked the NC BT with GPS equipment and a “wheel” that measured the actual length of the trail. Since the acquisition of GPS signals is best accomplished without foliage on the trees, this was a predominantly a winter-season effort. Due to the scope of the task (over 66 miles of footpath, including side trails) and acceptable weather days (no rain, snow or dense cloud cover), it took the winter of 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 to accomplish this data acquisition task.
While the trail data acquisition effort was progressing, a “Grant Team” was formed by the NCBTS Board of Directors to seek the funds necessary to hire the cartographer and pay for the commercial printing of the map. The team began searching for funding sources and submitted a grant request in the fall of 2008 to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA). Due to the team’s excellent work, we were successful in obtaining a “matching” grant from the BRNHA in January of 2009 for both the cost of the cartographer and the printer. The estimated total cost was about $11,000 for the map development and the printing of an initial 3000 copies of the map.
This new BT map will be “more than a map”. The NCBTS has a dual purpose: Promote the contributions of William Bartram, as well as maintain the trail named in his honor. The interests of the BRNHA are to promote tourism and provide interpretive information of the natural treasures of western North Carolina. These are synergistic interests and thus the new map will also contain information on William Bartram, his contribution to the history of the area and his encounters with the Native Cherokees as well as interpretive information on the natural and cultural history of the region. The intended cumulative effect of the new map is to enhance the experience of those already using the trail and increase the number of hikers, backpackers, nature enthusiasts, exercise enthusiasts, and history buffs that will come to the area and use the trail.
Once we were assured of the funds for the map effort, the search for a qualified cartographer began with “requirements” listing we placed on the internet (CartoTalk.com) discussing the requirements for our map. Fourteen firms responded to the listing with an eventual seven proposals being submitted. In May of 2009 the Ozark Cartographer’s Guild (OCG) was selected by the Map Team and the Board of Directors as having the best qualifications and lowest proposed cost for the effort.
The initial transfer of GPS, wheel and interpretive data from the NCBTS to OCG has already been accomplished and in August 2009 the first draft map was delivered to the NCBTS by OCG for review and comment.
That event brings us up to date on the “Journey” to a new BT map. The anticipated schedule and the remaining major milestones are listed below.
The intent is to have the new map ready for distribution by early 2010.
August 2009 to January 2010:
The cartographer will design and lay out the map, including the desired interpretive information on William Bartram and the natural and cultural history of the trail area, utilizing the GPS and “wheel” distance data obtained by the NCBTS. Once the map layout is approved, the cartographer will create a digital data computer disc that includes all GPS and interpretive information in a form suitable for use by a commercial printer to print the map.
January 2010 through February 2010:
The disc will be submitted to a commercial printer, who will perform the initial printing run of the map (3,000 copies are anticipated and this generally results in the optimum per-map printing cost).
March 2010: Accomplish the initial distribution of maps.
The “Map Team” will continue to work with help from many members of the NCBTS using their individual expertise to develop the new map. We are committed to producing a map that will not only be useful to the hiker, but will also add value to the experience of anyone visiting the western North Carolina Mountains.