To a non-scientist or planner, GIS technology may not sound very exciting.
But put into use, geographic information systems tools are doing everything including helping cities inventory park maintenance and vandalism problems, and tracking neighborhood crime.
In Hayden, the technology was the basis for CommunityViz, a software program that helped residents envision different populations and patterns of development.
It all was part of a yearlong process to revamp Hayden's master plan and define how Hayden should grow in anticipation of big development proposals.
Town Manager Russ Martin recently shared Hayden's experience with GIS technology and its importance in helping residents relate to the planning process, during a GIS conference in San Diego, Calif.
The Environmental Systems Research Institute hosted the conference, which attracted about 14,000 planners and scientists, Martin said.
The Orton Family Foundation, which developed CommunityViz software, sponsored Martin's trip.
Martin joined Ken Snyder and Chuck Donley, who helped facilitate the CommunityViz process, in presenting one of the many sessions at the conference. The trio emphasized GIS as a tool for encouraging public participation in a typically dry planning process.
"What I explained very clearly was that the community would have had a very different grasp of how development regulations would look without GIS systems and CommunityViz," Martin said.
Last November, almost 100 residents, using keypad polling, gave the town clear direction regarding development densities, streetscapes, preferred architecture and other aspects of growth.
CommunityViz also helped residents understand the fiscal implications of residential development and the importance of industrial and commercial projects as a balance.
The town hopes to continue using the software to help officials visualize development proposals. A new land use code requires developers provide project formats that can be used with CommunityViz, Martin said.
In addition to presenting, Martin also attended various sessions about other GIS applications.
"It was a very impressive conference, one I was glad to be able to go to," he said.