From A to Wythburn

Posted by Jim on Apr 5th, 2010
Apr 5

We are quickly approaching the two year anniversary of Nissa and I moving into our house in South Portland, yet whenever I sit down with The Sentry or read a local blog, I still have to check a map to see where the story takes place.  My problem is that I have no idea where most streets in South Portland are!  If it’s not a direct route between my home and one of the city’s schools, chances are I haven’t gone that way before.  My goal for the summer is to rectify this problem (and get some extra exercise) by riding my bike on every street in our town.  It may be a lofty goal, but the pursuit of it will be lots of fun!

My first task was to go to the South Portland GIS database, which is linked off of the town’s homepage and lists every parcel of land in the tax assessor’s database.  Luckily for me, you can limit your search to every lot on any single street in town by choosing the street from a drop down menu.  I went into the html source code for the page and extracted the list of all of the streets, which I imported into a Google Docs spreadsheet.  I now have an almost complete list of streets in town.  I’ve come across a few streets that are officially named roads but do not appear in the GIS list, as there is no property that front-facing towards these streets, such as Billy Vachon street.  As I’ve come across these streets, I’ve added them into my spreadsheet.  Also, the GIS list contains paper roads and other addresses that exist on paper only.  For example, the database lists Benjamin W. Pickett street extension.  The normal Benjamin W. Pickett street is a short road by SMCC, yet I could find no extension on Google Maps.  Examining the GIS records, I discovered that the extension exists on paper as the official address of the Old Settlers Cemetery, which is surrounded by property owned by SMCC (you can see it here).  I’ve had to delete a few of these streets from my list.  The current number of distinct streets on my list is 526, but that is a rather volatile total.

I started this quest on March first and have so far been down a number of streets I never knew existed.  It’s really interesting to see all sorts of interesting houses and surprising sights (such as the great view of the Portland peninsula available from the top of the hill on Julia street).  I’ve also discovered some off-road areas accessible to the public I never knew existed, such as a walking path at the intersection of Marsh rd and Providence ave.

The other really fun aspect of all of this is the planning I get to do.  I try to make sure I can bike on as many streets as I can whenever I find myself in a new area.  Today, for work, I will need to bike to the school department’s off-campus program, houses in the Hamlin school at the intersection of Sawyer and Ocean.  There a re a number of dead end residential streets between Highland and Sawyer that I’ve never had an occasion to go down.  I’ll rectify that today.  I’m also planning on riding on a few streets off of Parrott street that I’ve been near.  All in all, I plan on riding on 18 new streets just in that small area.  I don’t feel the need to ride the entire length of a street for it to count towards my goal, but by the same token, I won’t cont a street if I only ride along it for a few feet.  I would like to go for a least a block.

With all of this great weather we’ve had recently, this has been a great way for me to enjoy sun and explore South Portland.