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Anthropology
Completed Project

Georeferencing and the Accuracy of Property Markers: NYC Department of Environmental Protection Lands in Olive and Kent, NY

Dzifa Binka, Vassar College ’16 and Prof. April M. Beisaw

New York City receives billions of gallons of drinking water from reservoirs and controlled lakes around New York State. In order to protect the water, their Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulates land use around these waterbodies and purchases private lands. Some purchased lands are opened to public recreation and advertised as pristine wilderness. But, our summer research documented evidence of human activity on 15 DEP properties in the towns of Olive and Kent. Olive is associated with the Ashokan Reservoir, in the Catskills, and Kent is associated with the Boyd Corners Reservoir, by Lake Carmel. Archaeological survey of these properties required field navigation with handheld GPS units pre-loaded with DEP property maps. This required georeferencing (using Geographic Information Systems technology to give map JPEGs spatial coordinates) the maps in Google Earth and analyzing the overlay with ArcGIS. With these overlays and our GPS units we confirmed that the many private and DEP property markers (“No Trespassing” signs and flagging tape) do not coincide with mapped boundaries. Systematic recording of actual marker location and comparison of these data with DEP maps suggests that the DEP is not maintaining property boundaries in a way that is consistent with intended land use. The proliferation of flagging tape and signage is more indicative of the protective culture of private land owners and the indifference of DEP to local recreation.