The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission works to improve recreational boating access in Florida through renovation of existing boating access facilities; construction of new boating access facilities; and promoting safe and enjoyable boating throughout Florida’s vast waterways.
There are nearly 1 million recreational boats registered in Florida. Most of these are trailer boats transported to the water behind the family car and launched into the water via public boat launching ramps. Numerous additional trailer boats from other states are brought to Florida by visiting vacationers.
There are more than 200 government agencies (including cities and counties) and 250 private businesses that provide over 1,700 boat launching ramps for the public to access Florida waterways. There was great need for a one stop shop where Florida residents and visitors could identify and learn about all the boat launching opportunities available to them. With help from a United States Fish and Wildlife Service grant, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission undertook a major initiative to produce a descriptive inventory of the 1,700 plus public boat launching facilities in Florida.
As the condition and operation of boat launch ramps can change rather quickly, staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and collaborating agencies continuously update the database. Accurate information is critical both for the states’ planning of enhanced public access and for dissemination to the public to help expand their recreational opportunities. The next challenge was developing the appropriate method to serve this wealth of dynamic information to the public.
A website allowing public query and display of the database was the obvious choice. However, the website definitely had to include mapping capability to show locations of the ramps in relation to roads, waterways, towns, parks and other amenities. Also, boaters and fishermen love to view aerial photography when scouting for new places to boat and fish. While FWC has their own web GIS development capabilities, it was decided that integrating Google Maps within an interactive web database application would be more efficient for this project. Google Maps is also quite commonly used on all sorts of websites, therefore the look and feel are already familiar to many users.
The Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder was launched in February of 2012. There are other local or regional websites operated by municipalities or private businesses. However, the Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder is the only website that describes all the public boats ramps throughout Florida, regardless of ownership, location or capacity. With well over 1,700 boat launch ramps in the database, the ability to effectively query the database to find the exact boat launch ramps of interest is paramount. Query results are returned in both tabular and map format providing users with maximum flexibility.
The Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder is a well integrated approach to using Google Maps within an overarching application. A companion web database application is used by staff of FWC and collaborating agencies to verify, update and correct information displayed through the Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder. This secure web application also relies upon Google Maps. Accurate reporting of boat ramp location is easily verified with Google Maps. High resolution aerial photography can even allow staff to verify the number of parking spaces, existence of restrooms, or other features associated with boat ramps. Maintaining and serving accurate data is of critical importance to the FWC. The use of accurate street maps and recent aerial photography, as provided through Google Maps, facilitates preliminary data verification from the office without the need to immediately visit sites in person.
The FWC is continuing to educate the public about the site and is pleased with the attention it is getting without doing any paid advertising. The site gets the most visits on summer holiday weekends but gets a good amount of traffic all summer long. Mobile use is also increasing dramatically, with ⅔ of all visitors to the site now coming from mobile devices.
U.S. State & Local Government
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