When an Opportunity Presents Itself – Take It

When an Opportunity Presents Itself – Take It

By: Glenn K. Bennett, PLS

In 2015, the Basin School District located in Idaho City, Idaho acquired a patent to approximately 87 acres of land near their school through the Recreation and Public Purposes Act. This Act is a vehicle for nonprofits to gain title to federal lands that are of little or no use to the government but expensive to maintain. Out of this, the District created the Idaho Center for Outdoor Education (ICOE) with the purpose of developing a site to be utilized by students from Basin Schools as well as students from other schools, colleges, universities and the community at large as a recreation and educational facility.

The site contains a year round stream, an intermittent seasonal stream, a large riparian area, densely forested hillsides and more than 20 acres of mine tailings. It is of interest to us from a surveying standpoint in that it is comprised of an aliquot part, two Government Lots and has a patented mineral survey located across the center of it.

The District has spent approximately $40,000 in grant money to begin developing the property, most of which was used to rehabilitate and clean up the site following decades of abuse. School staff, students and community members have also installed a bathroom, picnic tables, Frisbee golf course and excavated the only ADA accessible nature trail on the Boise National Forest. Long term future projects include a covered pavilion, installation of wireless sensors and cameras for acquiring data remotely, an indoor classroom and science lab, a boardwalk into the riparian area, an observatory on top of the hill overlooking the valley, a footbridge, trail markers, maintenance shed, archery range, bunkhouses and mess hall, guest cabins and observatory yurt. The goal is to make the ICOE self-supporting by creating its own revenue stream by renting the facility to outdoor recreationists such as campers and cross country skiers.

In the spring of 2016, I was approached by a neighbor involved in the ICOE about doing a wetlands
survey for a 404 permit application to the Corps of Engineers. Following that conversation, as well as another with Boise County Sheriff Jim Kaczmarek, I saw an opportunity to involve the Idaho Society of Professional Land Surveyors (ISPLS) in outreach to potential future surveyors. I invited Sheriff Kaczmarek and John McFarlane, Basin School District Superintendent to attend a Southwest Chapter meeting to discuss how ISPLS could become involved and possibly provide some pro-bono professional services using students to accomplish the needed tasks where, hopefully, some might develop an interest in pursuing the profession as a career.

On October 4, 2016 a contingent of land surveyors representing ISPLS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spent the day with 37 high school students from the Basin School District exposing them to the opportunities available in a surveying career. I began the morning with a presentation about the early history of surveying, how what we do impacts society in ways most people are unaware of, how surveying involves much more than just boundaries and concluded with education and licensure requirements.

BLM Cadastral Surveyor Dan Young, PLS followed with a presentation on the history of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), Initial Point near Kuna and, as the BLM surveyor who did the survey for the transfer of title to ICOE, the process he followed to accomplish that survey.

Following the morning presentations everyone traveled the short distance to the ICOE site where the students were divided into three groups. Each group rotated through three different stations and were allowed hands-on use of different surveying equipment and technologies.

Station One was manned by Nathan Dang, PLS, Kerry Albright, PLS and Brandon Grant from Accurate Surveying and Mapping where they demonstrated the use and operation of a robotic total
station and data collector by retracing a portion of the previously completed wetlands survey.
Station Two was manned by Dan Young, PLS and John Zink from the BLM at a nearby mineral survey corner located on the boundary of the parcel where the students were shown original stone monuments and bearing trees. Students used compasses and tapes to measure to bearing trees, scribed logs using a scribing tool and stamped brass cap monuments using steel dies.

Station Three was manned by myself, John Yatzun and Kyle Koomler, EIT from Civil Survey Consultants as well as Ada County Surveyor Jerry Hastings, PLS. Students at this station used GPS receivers to perform a topo survey of the football field and surrounding infrastructure located on part of the mineral patent located across the center of the ICOE site. Students spent approximately an hour at each station before rotating on to the next. Further discussions were held at each station and many questions were asked and answered.

After the students had rotated through the three stations, everyone returned to the high school where Jerry Hastings, PLS gave a presentation on the survey of the boundary between Ada and Boise Counties which he and Ada County staff have been working on for several years. A drawing was held where an ISPLS tote bag, a notebook with the ISPLS logo embossed on the front and an aluminum replica of the Initial Point monument were given out to the lucky winners. This took us to the end of the school day and class was dismissed.

Since then, I have received some feedback from the Basin School District. The students were very enthusiastic about what they learned and one student has expressed to a teacher that he was going to pursue a career in surveying because it involved all the things he enjoyed – being outdoors, problem solving and emerging technology. For many years we, as a profession, have complained about the lack of knowledge the public has about what we do, as though that is their fault. I contend that the fault lies with us. As a profession we have not promoted ourselves as surveyors or our profession as a career choice. Unless we become more proactive in promoting our profession,
nothing will change.

I urge everyone to seek out opportunities to spend some time at your local schools talking about what we do. When an opportunity to assist a nonprofit organization, church project or other local worthwhile endeavor presents itself, I hope you will take advantage of that opportunity and donate some time and resources to help them achieve their goals. Financial resources are hard to come by for many of these groups and being able to accomplish their objective is often difficult or impossible when a significant portion of their budget can be spent on surveying or engineering services.

In the future, ISPLS will have an opportunity to work with ICOE and help them accomplish their goal of creating an education and recreation resource that can be utilized and enjoyed by everyone.

I hope we will take advantage of that opportunity and donate our time, resources and expertise when called upon to assist with small mapping projects, laying out of trails and structures or giving presentations to students.Many of the students would jump at a chance to assist on these projects as survey crew members and, in the process, would become potential future surveyors needed to replace our aging workforce. Plus, it was a lot of fun spending the day with these students and seeing their enthusiasm, excitement and inquisitiveness about what we do.

There is no better way to promote ourselves and our profession than to become involved in our communities, schools and local organizations as surveyors volunteering some time and expertise to assist, inform and educate them about who we are and what we do.

I want to extend special thanks to John Yatzun and Kyle Koomler, EIT with Civil Survey Consultants; Nathan Dang, PLS, Kerry Albright, PLS and Brandon Grant with Accurate Surveying and Mapping; Dan Young, PLS and John Zink with the BLM and Ada County Surveyor Jerry Hastings, PLS for volunteering their time, equipment and resources to make this a successful and educational experience. It couldn’t have been done without their hard work, planning and dedication to our profession.