What We've Found
Before we can decide what to do, we need to know what is
there. That is the purpose of an inventory. An inventory should focus just on
those places and things that make a community special and meaningful or that
impact an area. All too often we have seen inventories become unwieldy, too
exhaustive, too detailed. The ultimate test of the value of an inventory is how
the information is used.Just the
Inventories document natural,
historical, cultural, archeological, recreational and scenic resources; public
services; population and socioeconomic characteristics; facilities and
transportation patterns or other information. An inventory is a combination of
existing information, such as planning and zoning documents and study and
research reports prepared by government agencies, universities and corporations.
It also includes new information that is collected through interviews
, field trips
At the completion of the inventory, there should be a series of photographs
and descriptions of important resources, maps that illustrate the location of
those sites and statistical data on issues such as use, growth or socioeconomic
trends. Conclusions need to be supported and documented. Good inventories bring
credibility to a project or effort. Points to consider:
- There should be a valid purpose or rationale for every item inventoried.
- There needs to be a clear plan to address what happens to the issues or
resources that are identified, how will they be managed, how will their stories
How To Do It
1. Identify the area and record
Mark on a map the area that will be included in the study.
You may use maps from the U.S. Geological Service (USGS), aerial photography, or
project mapping. While USGS maps come in several scales, select the largest one
possible so sites can be labeled and clearly read, but do not make the map so
large that it becomes unmanageable.
Then start collecting information.
Are sites or structures listed on an historical register? Is there documented
habitat for any federal or state endangered or rare species? What is the water
quality in a stream? What is the use of a park? These types of questions
exemplify what needs to be asked.
As material is collected, consider
inputting all information into a computer database. This can be an efficient
means for storing, accessing, ordering and replicating information
2. Get folks involved
such as your Citizens
Advisory Group, to work on the inventory both gathering information and
reviewing it. Universities can often provide information and even students to
help. One good assignment is to have volunteers take photographs while on walks
or bike or car trips. Provide people with maps so they can mark the locations of
their photographs for future reference. These pictures may also be used later in
audiovisual presentations to educate and engage more people.
3. Get the work out
Once the work is done, it
cannot remain on a shelf forgotten. The inventory must be used to help people
get to where they want to be in the years ahead. Creatively used, an inventory
can be a powerful public involvement tool. Here are few ideas:
- Create posters
with an illustrative map of the area or a large photograph that captures the
place and a synopsis of the information in narrative.
- Produce a high-quality booklet
with excellent photography, good illustrations and narrative explanations
written for a non-technical audience.
- Develop audiovisual presentations targeted to different age groups and
interests. Groups are often looking for speakers and will welcome a presentation at
a meeting, whether slides or video.
- Publish findings and photographs on a website.
- Organize an event such as a tour in the area that was inventoried. Point out
significant findings and summarize highlights. The people who need to support a
project may not be familiar with the location; take them to it.
It may be necessary to complete a detailed document especially for large and
complicated projects or to satisfy legal requirements. If financial resources
allow, there should also be an eye-catching, easy-to-read summary to share with
A systematic gathering of information about or related to
a resource or community.
Use It If...
- You are looking for something to involve people in your project. Publishing
results of an inventory can give you positive exposure and provide a community
with educational information that interests them.
- You need to develop a vision and you want it based on the resources that are
important to the success of the project.
- You want to create a database of information about a community or project
area that can be continuously updated serving many different purposes.
Forget It If...
- You do not have an identified scope of what information should be collected.
Without a clear scope, inventories can quickly become unwieldy in terms of the
level of information being collected, the time it takes and the money it costs.
- You cannot get cooperation from resource experts in government agencies or
universities. Experts are needed to help interpret data and add validity to
results. You may have to budget for this participation.
- You find that not having a finished inventory is a roadblock to making other
decisions and taking action.
Timing is Everything
Inventories should be done at the beginning of a project.
If a project expands or more information is needed during later stages, add to
an inventory then.
Inventory - D7- Item No. 7-210
Property Owner Information
Sheet - D8 - Item No. 8-59.2
Environmental Inventory -
D10- Item No. 10-8200