An interactive eye on scenic roads

County uses software, GPS to give glimpse into history

April 09, 2004|By Sarah Lesher | Sarah Lesher,SUN STAFF

Software for military intelligence has been put to use to keep an eye on the state of Anne Arundel County's scenic and historic roads.

The software, called Media Mapper, is a state-of-the-art precision tool developed to help not only the military, but also in the management of large farms.

Media Mapper allows wide-angle video "windshield views" of roads and audio commentary to be linked by global positioning system, or GPS, coordinates to maps and other geographic data.

Anne Arundel's Scenic and Historic Roads Program is the only one in the country to put such high-tech power to work for historic preservation, according to Sherri Marsh, an agricultural and historical planner in the county's Office of Environmental and Cultural Resources.

"I thought, `Why not drive down a road collecting wide-angle video of historic sites and scenic routes - whatever makes that road scenic or historic?' " she said. "I can narrate too: `I'm passing an 18th-century tobacco barn on the right, and on the left are tobacco fields in front of a pond.' "

The software links the video and audio data to historic photographs and old maps, showing how the road has evolved.

The county began documenting scenic and historic roads using traditional hands-on methods in the early 1990s, according to Donna Ware, county historic sites planner.

Under the initiative of then-County Councilwoman Virginia P. Clagett, now a state delegate, 72 roads were listed.

In 2001 and 2002, the Maryland Historical Society gave the county grants totaling $69,000. Media Mapper was adopted by Marsh to link video and audio descriptions of roads with geographic data, including historical maps.

"Her work pretty much invented the process," Ware said of Marsh.

Marsh attended training by Red Hen Systems of Fort Collins, Colo., to learn how to use Media Mapper.

The ultimate goal, Ware said, is to use the data to create county regulations and codes that protect the historic and scenic attributes of the roads.

"We try to work with developers on the placement of things like subdivision entrances and the preservation of vegetative screening to minimize the scenic impact," she said. "The developers have been very responsive to maintaining a beautiful setting."

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