Bark's Community Mapping Project

"Representation of geographic information through the science of cartography is not neutral and is in no way separate from the broader power relations present in society" - David Livingstone

The context

The area surrounding the newly re-proposed Polallie Cooper Timber Sale is one where Bark’s community has a longstanding history, dating back to before the organization was formed. Looking at old photographs that volunteers took, the earliest date back to 1997.

Located on the north slope of Mt. Hood, the Polallie Cooper Timber Sale was originally cancelled in 2005 after fierce opposition from a coalition of conservation, recreation and citizen groups. In 2013, we got word that this project would be re-planned, and just like 10 years ago the initial proposal includes aggressive logging in some of the forests the Bark community values the most.

Since the Forest Service has been re-examining this area, Bark has worked to build and sometimes re-build our connection to this special place. We have hosted campouts, public hikes and “groundtruthing” trips to field-check the areas under proposal for logging and roadbuilding. Along with documenting ecological conditions in the timber sale, we also found ourselves taking in beautiful sunsets on the mountain, powerful old growth trees, childhood stories, afternoon dips in the river, and a midnight lightning storm.  These experiences are the basis for this project.

Bark’s Community Mapping Project  

“Participatory GIS” is the development of geospatial information which is initiated and directed by the Bark community who participate through a collaborative inclusion of multiple realities.[1]

This is defined by:

A process which is inclusive, with broad community involvement being more important than mapping skills or accuracy.

A representation of our community’s values, to be used by our community or on behalf of it.

The content that represents our local, site-specific experiential knowledge - turning our names/symbols into public information.

Accessibility and format is humble enough for Barkers to participate in the long-term without much guidance.

With all this, we demonstrate our values, understandings and interactions with the place, our “long but invisible history” of relating to the forest, the desire for change, and as an educational tool for people who love Mt. Hood.

The map we are working on has no title.

In early 2016, we invited all members of the Bark community who had spent time in the area which is now included in the current Polallie Cooper proposal. Participants are given a marker, access to their old notes and photos, and a verbal description of the map’s purpose. Very little guidance is given other than allowing space for others to place their experiences on the map. The map canvas is minimal. There are some reference points (main roads, streams, etc.) but most landmarks are up to the participants to define, depending on their experiential importance. The finished product will speak for itself, as an inclusive culmination of our community’s connection to this place.

Since maps are typically created by those in "power", this project seeks to place that power in the hands of those who walk, listen to, and love this land. The map is just the beginning of a process that the Bark community will carry onward to record our history in the forests surrounding Mt. Hood. This information will be available to our supporters, federal agencies in power, and other stakeholder groups when decisions are being made about our public forests.

[1] Corbett, J., Rambaldi, Giacomo. 2009. Geographic Information Technologies, Local Knowledge, and Change. SAGE Publications Ltd. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9780857024541.d9