INDUSTRYU.S. State & Local Government
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.
Nearly one million recreational boats are registered in Florida. Most are trailer boats transported to the water behind the family car and launched into the water using public boat launch ramps. Numerous additional trailer boats from other states are brought to Florida by visiting vacationers.
More than 200 government agencies (including cities and counties) and 250 private businesses provide over 1,700 boat launch ramps for public access to the Florida waterways. The state needed a one-stop-location where Florida residents and visitors could identify and learn about all of the launch opportunities available statewide. 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 launch facilities in Florida.
Simplifying Location Intelligence
As the condition and operation of boat launch ramps can change rather quickly, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff and collaborating agencies are challenged to continuously update their database. Accurate information is critical for the states to plan enhanced public access — and for dissemination to the public to help expand their recreational opportunities. An additional challenge was to develop the appropriate method to make this wealth of dynamic information available 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 the locations of the ramps in relation to roads, waterways, towns, parks and other amenities. Also, boaters and people fishing love to view aerial photography when scouting for new boating and fishing sites. While FWC has its own web GIS development capabilities, it was decided that integrating Google Maps Platform within an interactive web database application would be more efficient for this project. Google Maps Platform is also quite commonly used on all sorts of websites, providing many users with its familiar look and feel.
Google Maps Platform Increases Boating Access
The Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder was launched in February 2012. While there are other local or regional websites operated by municipalities or private businesses, this site is the only website that describes all the public boat 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 it 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 provides a well-integrated approach, using Google Maps Platform within an overarching application. A companion web database application is used by FWC staff 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 Platform.
Accurate reporting of boat ramp locations is easily verified with Google Maps Platform. High-resolution aerial photography even allows staff to verify the number of parking spaces, restroom locations and 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 the Google Maps Platform facilitates preliminary data verification from the office — without the need to immediately visit sites in person.
The FWC continues work to educate the public about the site and is pleased with the attention it is getting without purchasing any paid advertising. The site gets the greatest number of visits on summer holiday weekends, but also receives a good amount of traffic all summer long. Mobile use is also increasing dramatically, with two-thirds of all visitors to the site visiting from their devices.