Grant to make mapping Morgan as easy as 1-2-3

Oct 21 2012 - 11:23pm

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MORGAN -- Anyone trying to find a minor road in Morgan County risks falling off the edge of the world.

"There's never been a good map of Morgan County," said Terry Turner, county ambulance supervisor and emergency management director.

Turner, an emergency responder for 15 years, has compiled information in a green folder he keeps on his desk. This folder shows street names and addresses for each of many new subdivisions and county roads that wind through private property up on the mountains.

Because of the confusion, the state of Utah on Oct. 3 gave Morgan County $4,509 for a Global Information System server from the Environmental Systems Research Institute to form a master address list.

Every road has a name, Turner said, but not every road is named on any map.

Most maps don't have that much mystery.

All maps show highways. Some maps have contour lines to represent elevation and small squares for each 100 square miles.

Most maps indicate whether a road is paved or gravel. More-detailed maps show different symbols to mark trails, roads or picnic grounds.

But even with a plat in hand from the Morgan County Courthouse that shows property boundaries, newcomers may not know the surrounding street names without walking around and looking for signs.

It can be confusing for anyone who isn't from around there, but in some cases, the situation can be life-threatening.

Emergency responders with the fire department, sheriff's office or ambulance service might not get to where they're needed soon enough.

The dispatcher will sometimes call back the person who needs help to ask directions, Turner said.

"We've had some trouble over the years," he said. "No one has died because of it."

The challenge is that 95 percent of Morgan County is privately owned, said David Manning, Morgan County Planning and Development Services GIS specialist.

The new GIS server will help with garbage billing, voting precincts, 911 dispatch, mobile phone sales tax, property taxes and business registration.

Maps show contour lines where the mountains are, but many of the Morgan County mountains have no name, Manning said.

There are probably local names, but these are not written down. The satellite data is clear about the topography, Manning said, but the road data is not clear, detailed or up to date.

"I've got a good handle on what's going on geographically in the county," he said, "(but) we don't really have a map of the county per se. Publishing any kind of map with any kind of detail is a significant challenge here."

An AAA road map and Google Maps show Morgan County communities, such as Mountain Green, Peterson, Enterprise, Milton, Stoddard, Littleton, Richville, Como Springs and White Crossing.

Most maps identify cities and towns, but not communities, Manning said. MapQuest shows only Morgan.

So what about Rand McNally, the go-to mapmaker of the United States and the rest of the world?

No, Manning said: Rand McNally is very, very generalized with Morgan County.

A supposedly up-to-date U.S. Geological Survey map shows the U.S. Forest Service owns one-third of the county, Manning said. His figures show the Forest Service owns only 0.03 percent of Morgan County.

While USGS may be confused, Loyal Clark, Wasatch-Cache National Forest public information officer, said the Forest Service knows where its roads and boundaries are found.

Her figures reflect Manning's, but the national forest maps show every mountain with a name and list every road and trail. That detailed information is available only for federal lands.

Because anyone who needs to travel old Morgan County roads better be able to get there without a map, the sheriff's department tries to send out a deputy who already knows the way to a call site, whether it's because he grew up in the area or had been called out previously to the residence, said Morgan County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Kevin Edwards.

Edwards and Turner agree that house numbers are more likely to cause problems than not finding the street.

But even in the city, there is no consistency, Edwards said. Instead of "1-2-3," the address numbering system might show "1-2-0" or "1-2-8."

"The address thing here is not systematic," he said. "The city's not too bad. You might have odd and even numbers on the same side of the street. Two streets might have the same number."

Down in the county, addresses are more of a problem, Edwards said.

Three or four houses might have a row of mailboxes with names but no house number. The house number might not be on the house, either, so the sheriff's office might not know exactly where a problem exists.

Most people in Morgan County use Morgan as the mailing address without identifying the community, although Mountain Green shows a mixture, Manning said.

Mail carriers are seemingly undaunted by the challenge.

"Basically, we don't use maps," said Margaret Putnam, U.S Post Office spokeswoman for Utah and southern Idaho.

"We have addresses in the order the carrier goes down the road. We might use a hand-drawn map for the carriers. It's not that hard."

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