Long-range planning and facilities management are important parts of maintaining camp assets and building a better community environment for staff and campers alike. Collaborating with a professional architectural and planning group can help camps learn more about their property, which will aid them in planning for the future and optimizing the use of their facility.

The Girl Scouts-Wagon Wheel Council (GSWWC) in central Colorado recently worked with Higginbotham/Briggs and Associates (HB&A), an award-winning planning, architecture and information technology firm headquartered in Colorado Springs, to do just that. The group’s expertise in land development, infrastructure analysis, mapping, and computer-aided information systems provided the background that GSWWC needed for the project.

The council was interested in producing an integrated ten-year development plan for all its properties. To adequately plan for future development, they needed a map showing all sites and a detailed site map of the 880-acre Sky High Ranch in Woodland Park. An HB&A staffer familiar with GSWWC and the ranch supervised the project.

Data Collection a Group Effort

The first goal, then, was to provide an accurate, comprehensive map of the Sky High Ranch and its interrelated features. As would be expected with most public agency camps, data needed for the project existed in a variety of formats and locations, including in the heads of the long-time members. Although more than thirty maps existed for the ranch, including non-electronic maps, hand-drawn maps, and architectural blueprints from various projects, no one map displayed all the features of camp. Maps were collected from the council’s archives and loaned to HB&A.

To enhance the mapping process, GSWWC gathered other data, including historic documents, flood plain and utility maps, forest service data, aerial photographs, and topography maps. In addition, senior high school girls, as well as some adults, volunteered to measure the areas that had no maps, such as cabins built by volunteers and fences built to enclose specific areas. One volunteer used a Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument to measure remote sites. The riding staff determined the most frequently used horse trails and ones which should be discontinued, and the ranch’s site manager verified waterline locations. On more than one occasion, the maps in progress were displayed to solicit information from volunteers throughout the council.

Computerized Maps Allow Easy Access to Data

HB&A worked closely with GSWWC to ensure the council’s needs were incorporated into the product. The firm prepared twenty-four 11-by-17-inch maps in hard copy form, with the data residing in an ArcView GIS computer program. The maps generated included a complete base map and featured items such as horse/hiking trails, utilities, constraints and opportunities, existing and future land use, fire evacuation routes, topography, slopes and drainage, transportation, regional and vicinity maps, and proposed development sites.

HB&A also developed a customized application which allows the council to access any or all of the information in multiple combinations for analysis of viewsheds, facilities use and maintenance, potential trails, building and camping sites, program sites, and projected use areas. A volunteer designed a relational database that linked into the computerized mapping. This allows the user to click on a particular site, view pictures(s) of the area, and view the maintenance records.

Long-term Benefits Are Many

The mapping dimension was invaluable to the long-range property planning for the site. By assessing constraints and opportunities for future development, such as proximity of utilities, summer/winter facilities, tree density, and slopes, the council is able to make informed choices regarding wintertime use, program sites, and site usage. GSWWC now has the tools to evaluate and plan for the property from an integrated site development perspective — visually complementing the normal program and administrative perspectives. The map analysis helped the council understand the land (e.g., 12 percent of the property has slopes under 12 percent), articulate and color code the land use areas on the property (horses, maintenance, living areas, program), and create a system for a permanent collection of information about the property.

The maps and software also enable the council to:

  • provide a degree of accuracy and access never before experienced for analyzing potential development sites, assessing facility conditions, determining fire evacuation routes, developing detailed maps for troop outings, and updating mapping information as the property changes.
  • facilitate presentations for fund development plans.
  • provide a tool for keeping up-to-date property maintenance schedules.

By collaborating with others, professionals and volunteers, GSWWC enhanced their site planning. The combined efforts of many have provided a foundation for the future.



Originally published in the 1999 September/October issue of Camping Magazine.