CHiRP mapping project ready for public 

Open house Thursday to showcase mapping technology

The Whistler Community Habitat Resources Project, better know around Whistler as CHiRP, will celebrate its official launch this week with an open house and a full demonstration of the Web site.

At press time CHiRP was still awaiting data on bear denning areas, human-bear conflict areas, bike trails, bird counts and fish counts, but otherwise the site is fully functional and ready to grow.

"The site is good enough now to get the community excited about it, it’s working," said project leader Stephane Perron. "We’re still waiting for a lot of information for the site, but you can see now how it will function, and the benefits that this can have for the community. It’s a real resource, and an excellent tool."

The open house will include a workshop with CHiRP web developer Tracy Howlett, who created the site and adapted the mapping software to cover Whistler. It’s fairly easy to learn to use the system, says Perron, but the tutorial will help you find your way around faster.

"She will run through the whole site and give people a demonstration on how to access it, the different things you can do with it, how to use all the little navigation tools. She will also give a demonstration of one of the really powerful components of the site, which is the Local Stories Module," Perron said.

The project uses the Internet and map layering technology to develop an interactive map of the Whistler area that shows everything from development to trails to wildlife habitat areas. It’s partly an educational tool, allowing people to compare different mapping layers to make comparisons and learn more about our valley, but it also has its practical uses.

It will help different groups that are active in the valley to identify wildlife habitat, show potential conflicts between developers and other land users, and to give users a big pictures of how different components of Whistler relate to one another.

The Local Stories module lets people share their experiences and discoveries in Whistler using the map as a starting point. For example, if you spot a bobcat on a mountain bike trail and get a picture of it, you can pinpoint the spot on a map with an icon that will indicate that it is a wildlife story. Other visitors to CHiRP will then be able to click on the icon, read about the encounter and check out your picture.

Over a period of time Perron hopes that the Local Stories component of the site will be filled with these kinds of encounters. Everybody in Whistler could potentially become a resource.

"A local story doesn’t have to be wildlife, it can be cool place, it could be someone who found a toxic waste dump, it could show people where the recycling depots are – it’s all about knowledge, a tool to help people gain knowledge of the Valley," said Perron. "When all of that knowledge starts to build up, maybe patterns will start to emerge. Maybe we will learn something about our valley we didn’t know before.

"At the least we will know what happens here, and where it happens."

While most of the focus has been on habitat, the Perron points out that mapping is also useful for social, economic and environmental studies. As the amount of data builds, so will the potential uses for the CHiRP site he says.

To find out how you can contribute to CHiRP, drop by the CHiRP office by the Library and Museum between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 27 for the official launch and a demo and tutorial of the site.

You can also check out CHiRP online at www.chirpwhistler.info.

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