GIS software is nothing without data. Database preparation process takes the time and requires some expertise. At the same time there are a lot of valuable data sources that remain unknown to potential users. An interesting example of the benefits that can be expected from having accessible metadata at the local level, comes from the community of Bakałarzewo on Northeastern Poland. With population of 3400 inhabitants and area of 123 sq km it represents typical rural community. As every municipality on Poland, it is required to prepare a study of conditions and directions of development (structure plan) setting out its development strategy. To do so it contacted the Center of Spatial Management, in Warsaw, which decided to start off by checking if the regional and national organizations which might have some digital geographic data relevant to the locality. The Community of Bakałarzewo because of limited staff and resources does not maintain any GIS, it outsourced preparation of planning documents for the same reason. One has also to realize that no Internet infrastructure for GI has been established for that region. To the surprise of the local community and not to the surprise of CSM experts, it was possible to find quite quickly a lot of GIS structured datasets. Full set of cadastral data with over 6500 parcels and over 10000 landuse contours was held at the regional level in an old database in DOS operating system. Polish Geological Institute could provide Arc/Info Coverages with geological surface map. By converting those data into a modern GIS database it was possible in a few days to assemble and structure database that served for preparation of parcels maps and many thematic maps like land ownership map, land-use map, soils map, geology. DTM suitable for visualization and flood analysis was processed from contour lines. Total cost of data conversion can be estimated as € 1000. Costs or data capture of the same quality from scratch could be €50,000. The most astonished at the results were the “owners” of the original data who did not realize how their data could be re-used. Cadastral information system in Poland is rather data rich. It contains data that are crucial for any planners works. Typically, the system is managed by County level administration. In many cases all the data have been already converted into vector format and are highly reliable. Standard cadastral datasets include parcels, buildings and landuse contours together with classification of soils. One can only little regret that those data are so rarely integrated with landuse plans and no standards for spatial planning have been developed on national or even regional level in Poland so far. Despite that full variety of domestic software is used by County Authorities for purpose of cadastral data management but it’s rather not a problem to export data via DXF, DWG, SHP or SWING (Polish domestic exchange format for cadastral data). It makes easy further data processing with use of modern GIS software for purposes of Spatial Planning. The conclusion from that work should be that at really low cost and in short period of time, it’s possible to prepare excellent “starting point” GI environment for planners. Bakałarzewo case makes also a good argument for SDI initiatives importance (like INSPIRE) especially for small rural communities that given independence in a field of spatial planning, can’t rather afford to manage their own GIS. There are a lot o valuable ready to use data prepared for public money by various administrations that remain hidden due to lack of transparent rules and metadata systems.

Download sample datasets for Bakałrzewo in Shapefile format or have a GIView of that Community via Bakałarzewo