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Spotlight – Township Canada: Explore Canadian Legal Land Descriptions on a Map
May 12, 2018 DATA

Township Canada (https://townshipcanada.com) is a simple tool that allows for searching, converting, and mapping Canadian legal land descriptions. What is a legal land description?

Any parcel of land in Canada can be located by its legal land description. Legal land descriptions are based on survey grid networks that divide the country into equal-sized parcels of land. Many industries in Canada such as oil & gas and agriculture use legal land descriptions to identify their assets such as wells, facilities, and land parcels. The problem I had when I first started in the energy industry was how to easily convert the legal land descriptions into geographical coordinates and map them – I couldn’t find an easy-to-use tool at the time. So I built a simple web app back in Summer of 2017, as a side-project, and started using it. I even shared a link with a few friends of mine and I got so much love from them. I then realized that this tool might be useful to other people who are dealing with legal land descriptions in their daily routine, so I decided to further develop its functionality and release it as a product.

How it Works

Township Canada provides the Canadian survey grid as a data layer on a map – technically speaking it’s called the Dominion Land Survey (DLS) grid for Alberta and Saskatchewan and the National Topographic System (NTS) for British Columbia. Users can also locate themselves on the map – this becomes handy when using the app on the phone and  driving around, which turns it into a navigation app with a built-in grid network. This can be especially useful to those who use legal land descriptions to locate themselves and find their destinations such as truck drivers, conservation officers, or even emergency responders in rural areas.

It also enables users to lookup legal land descriptions, geographical coordinates, and places, and to see the results on a map. The lookup function is implemented as an autocomplete search engine, which provides suggestions while users type into the search box; pretty much like the way Google Search works that is more efficient and user-friendly compared to traditional search methods.

Users can also store search results on their profile as favourites for future use. They can also export/download search results as CSV, KML, Shapefile, and GeoJSON to use in other applications from Excel to Google Earth and GIS apps. Batch conversion is another utility that can be used to convert many legal land descriptions into geographical coordinates – and postal addresses if available – at once.

How it is Made

Township Canada is built using free and open source software. PostgreSQL and PostGIS, NodeJS and Express, VueJS and Mapbox GL JS are used to create the database, backend, and frontend components. Open data and vector tiles technology are employed to provide the grid data on the map – the sources for grid data are AltaLIS, SaskGrid, and BC Data Catalogue.

What’s Next

I’m now working on building API endpoints for developers so they can add the grid tiles, search and autocomplete functionality, and batch processing into their apps. I’m also working on ways to further improve the product both in terms of performance and usability. If you read this piece and had any comments or suggestions, I’d be more than happy to hear them out – ping me on twitter @mepoorazizi and we can chat.

Author:  Ebrahim Poorazizi, @mepoorazizi

See Township Canada (https://townshipcanada.com)

 

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