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  • Christine McClelland, Arizona State University

Tourist town in crisis

There are many hidden gems in the Midwest but my favorite is the quaint little town of Grafton, Illinois. Grafton, located in Jersey County on the banks of the Mississippi River, is a town based off of tourism. There are many attractions that bring people to this beautiful area. Wineries, shops and unique restaurants that line the downtown region. A nearby state park with trails that go on for miles is also a must see. Though seemingly a perfect town, every year during the spring and summer seasons Grafton is subjected to massive flooding. Water covers the main road leading through the downtown area forcing the entire town to shut down.

Spring of this year, flooding in Grafton reached over thirty feet. Businesses in this area have suffered greatly and the citizens in this town have worked endlessly again and again to repair what was destroyed. Even though many businesses have tried their best to adapt by raising buildings with stilts, there is still a matter of lack of tourism due to the flooding. Their safety and livelihoods are at risk every year. The residents have taken to the media, pleading for support to help figure out a solution to better control the flooding.

There is a dire need for mapping a town like Grafton. Creating a map for this region could assist in generating a flood prevention plan and determine vulnerable areas. This could potentially aid in the creation of a recovery strategy as well. Further mapping can initiate future plans such as, construction of new levees, flood walls and relocation of businesses.

YouthMappers has introduced me to technology that could start the process to creating a solution to resolve the flooding. Mapping tools such as Humanitarian Open Street Maps, JOSM and iD editor, incorporate VGI, virtual geographic information. With these technologies, locals in the Grafton area can easily contribute data creating a map of the flooded region. Other software such as, QGIS can generate a detailed map by adding and removing layers. QGIS will be able to produce a flood risk assessment showing potential and future areas of flooding. Introducing the Grafton community to VGI technologies, could greatly benefit the region. This will not only help save the future of Grafton, but will give the locals a sense of pride and empowerment that they were able to contribute to saving their town. In the future, I plan to introduce local officials to these technologies in hopes that this will lead to the creation of a flood prevention plan and flood control barriers.

Christine McClelland is a student at Arizona State University majoring in Geography and minoring in sustainability. She is eager to continue to apply her new set of skills to resolve environmental issues in her local area.

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