Shari Erick­son’s work points peo­ple in right di­rec­tion

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Perkins

DU­RANGO» In the age of GPS and smart­phones that speak di­rec­tions aloud, it can be easy to for­get that at one point peo­ple had to read and in­ter­pret maps, which may not have been up­dated at the pace of de­vel­op­ment and ex­pan­sion.

The U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey was es­tab­lished in 1879 with the goal of clas­si­fy­ing and map­ping pub­lic and pri­vate lands. Part of the process was the cre­ation of to­po­graphic maps that use lines to show the el­e­va­tion change of a par­tic­u­lar fea­ture and give a sense of just how much a moun­tain tow­ers over the sur­round­ing plains.

Many of those maps haven’t been up­dated in decades — and that’s where Shari Erick­son, 45, and her Apogee Map­ping come in.

Erick­son, a na­tive Cal­i­for­nian who moved to Colorado in 2008, said she started map­ping through a data en­try job in Tucson, where she in­put ge­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, such as roads and sub­di­vi­sions, onto govern­ment maps. She also was a vol­un­teer for Su­per­sti­tion Search and Res­cue in Pi­nal County, Ariz., and from 2001 to 2006 she fo­cused on up­dat­ing search and res­cue maps to in­clude trails, of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial, as well as other fea­tures the mem­bers of the team com­monly ref­er­enced in the back­coun­try.

“There was a lot of in­tel that peo­ple had in their minds, like a lot of the group would hike all the time and they knew ex­actly where the trails were and likely camp­sites, but it was all in their head,” she said.

That didn’t help new mem­bers who didn’t know the ter­rain as in­ti­mately, or when the group col­lab­o­rated with other or­ga­ni­za­tions, she said.

The work of com­bin­ing data sets, pools of ge­o­graph­i­cal and de­vel­op­ment in­for­ma­tion drove her to cre­ate the one-woman busi­ness she runs out of her home in Edge­mont Ranch.

When she started Apogee Map­ping eight years ago, Erick­son had 45 unique maps. Now, the count is just short of 300 that she of­fers lo­cal re­tail­ers or out­door en­thu­si­asts who seek out her prod­ucts on­line.

Each of the maps con­tains an av­er­age of 15 data sets and took up to a week to pro­duce.

An ex­am­ple is a map of the Du­rango area that shows the bound­aries of sec­tions of pub­lic lands, pri­vate in­hold­ings, trails, roads, houses, oil and gas sites, mines, cell­phone tow­ers, topo­graph­i­cal changes and camp­sites — and is up­dated with new de­vel­op­ments, such as hous­ing or trail projects.

“That’s what sets my maps apart from other peo­ple’s maps. A lot of peo­ple just re­gur­gi­tate the same govern­ment data, and I actually sit there and fuss with it,” she said.

Some data Erick­son uses can be sim­ply over­laid, and some she must in­put man­u­ally, es­sen­tially draw­ing roads into the map files us­ing aerial imag­ing as a ba­sis. The prac­tice leaves her with lit­tle competition be­cause of the la­bor costs, she said. “It’s a lot of man hours for very lit­tle re­ward.” That’s not to say there is no mon­e­tary gain from pro­duc­ing the maps, which she said has grown with her of­fer­ings.

“It’s not enough to pay the mort­gage, so right now obviously my hus­band is pay­ing the big bills,” she said.

Her first cus­tomer was the San Juan Moun­tains As­so­ci­a­tion, which was stock­ing USGS maps but did no in-house print­ing. Since then she has es­tab­lished part­ner­ships with sev­eral lo­cal re­tail­ers.

Erick­son said she pro­vides cus­tom maps and ones that cus­tomers ex­press in­ter­est in, but when given the chance, she has a sim­ple for­mula for de­cid­ing what to map: “Ba­si­cally, I map stuff that I want to go see.”

Jerry McBride, The Du­rango Her­ald

Du­rango-area res­i­dent Shari Erick­son, 45, looks at maps she has spent the past eight years up­dat­ing. She runs her busi­ness, Apogee Map­ping, out of her home.

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