- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A unique pontoon boat took to the waters of Goodyear and Otsego Lakes on July 22 for a project that organizers hope will help the Susquehanna River.

Terrain360, based in Richmond, Va., is working with the Chesapeake Conservancy, based in Annapolis, Md. on the effort to produce a digital map of the entire river. When completed it will allow viewers to go on a virtual tour and see first hand what a paddler experiences, according to a media release.

Two people involved with the local work spoke about the effort.

Terrain360 white water expert, Sam Christy, and its chief operations officer, Wil Loy, put the boat into Goodyear Lake shortly after 4:30 p.m. Christy guided the boat on its 1 1/2 hour mapping, taking high resolution, 360-degree pictures every 70 feet, Loy said. The two spent about 3 1/2 hours earlier in the day to map Otsego Lake.

They will spend a total of about nine days taking photos of the river, for the project that began about a month and a half ago, Loy said. The mapping should be completed by the end of August, he said.

“The Susquehanna is the lifeblood for the rich diversity of flora and fauna living within its watershed,” and it is the source of more than 50 percent of the freshwater flowing to the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said in a media release.

“With the Susquehanna having been named America’s Most Endangered River by American Rivers (a national nonprofit conservation organization) twice within the last decade, we realized that we could use technology to make it easier for people to connect with the river,” he said. If that happens, “they will be more likely to become stewards of the Susquehanna.”

The maps produced from the images will include information on public access points, history, recreation and points of conservation value along the river. They will allow people to explore the river from their screens — whether on a phone, tablet or PC.

Loy said the river in this area is “beautiful.” With shallow patches in some areas, it’s a far cry from the river when it is at its widest, he said.

The boat’s six cameras are about 12 feet above the water, he said, so the vessel will appear as infrequently as possible in the images.

Days like Wednesday are perfect for this kind of work, Loy said, noting the finished product “should help tourism.”

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(c)2015 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

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