Allegheny Land Trust, regional partners launch interactive mapping tool

Monday, October 8, 2018 | 11:42 AM

An online mapping application is the latest tool the Allegheny Land Trust is using to help communities in the region protect land.

The Sewickley-based trust, with the help of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center and other local partners, launched Urban Greenprint in September.

It is an interactive map that contains a plot of Allegheny County and uses color codes to show features like parks and trails, as well as landslide-prone areas and other hazards. It also has property data for land parcels.

“It’s not that maps like this have never existed, it’s that this map takes many layers that work together and combines them in one place,” said Lindsay Dill, marketing communications director for Allegheny Land Trust.

Much of the data included on the map was provided by the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, which are both partners with the data center, according to Steven Saylor, a research programmer with the data center who helped build the map.

By accessing the tool, Dill explained that communities “can do a bit more proactive planning when wondering how to create more green opportunities or gardening opportunities or land protection opportunities in their area.”

If an individual or organization decides to purchase a parcel for protection, they can choose to retain ownership and find an alternative use for it, or approach a land trust about taking it over, Dill said.

Urban Greenprint shows extensive data from within the City of Pittsburgh, but the goal is to get more information from beyond the city limits, its developers say.

Although local governments might lack the willingness to share data at times, Urban Greenprint offers a solution to this obstacle.

“We like to present the data sharing as part of a larger plan that benefits them and their constituents. The Urban Greenprint app (is) one such example,” Saylor said.

Recent problems caused by heavy rainfall could give local governments in Allegheny County more incentive to share data on their land.

“This year we saw a huge amount of flooding and landslides due to extreme rain. Suburban municipalities could really benefit by collaborating across borders to identify where the water is coming from and where we should try to preserve or expand greenspace to help that water soak into the ground,” said Eleanor Newman, coordinator of strategic analytics for Allegheny County.

Anyone interested in researching land ownership and use can access the Urban Greenprint tool through the data center’s website .

Building Urban Greenprint was the largest collaborative endeavor the data center has undertaken, Saylor said.

More than $20,000 went into data collection, development and other initiatives. The Richard King Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments and University of Pittsburgh, which manages WPRDC, all provided funding for the project. The map, developed with open-source code, took approximately 10 months to build and launch, according to information Dill provided to the Sewickley Herald.

Dill said Urban Greenprint offers an enhanced version of an existing county map that Allegheny Land Trust has used to identify areas in need of protection since its inception.

“That map kind of looked like this one, but it wasn’t user-friendly, and it just outlined areas that we saw as in the highest need of protection. So (Urban Greenprint) is essentially the next version of that and addresses the urban landscape, because most of our work has been suburban and rural,” Dill said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.