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WhiteStar Navigator

Beware the Pitfalls of Problem Polygons

Robert White

I’m going to predict your mapping department has a shoebox full of land descriptions you would love to map, but for a multitude of reasons have not or cannot do so. Inaccurate, out-of-date maps lose credibility with stakeholders, and can’t be trusted for decision making. Here are some pitfalls to avoid so that you may have a complete map:

1. Illegible source document or unfamiliar units (such as varas): Expert staff can read and interpret colonial script in many cases to produce data for data entry into your mapping system. This is a typical example of field notes for a Texas GLO survey. Many deeds and descriptions fall into this category, particularly in older areas. Sometimes these documents are in French or Spanish.


2. Incomplete data: This example near the Fort Sill Army Base is a bit of an odd example. 7 2N 11W 29 LOTS 1-7, Tract 37. I was curious about how to map this, so I downloaded WhiteStar Lots, Tracts, and Quarter-Quarters for Comanche County, Oklahoma in Geodatabase format from WhiteStar Cloud.

Section 29 looks “normal” if you just examine the section lines, yet I still have no idea as to how to map the legal description:

Section Lines.png

Turning on the additional lots, tracts and quarter-quarters, voilá, I now have an answer. In some instances, you will also need to obtain tax parcel and imagery information to see the entire picture.


3. Map files and CAD data are referenced/tied to a legacy out-of-date or unmaintained land grid: Established and trusted workflows are available to conflate old data to a new system. Old data is “good enough” for some people until bitten, particularly dangerous in re-surveyed areas with renewed oil and gas activity such as Ward and Loving counties in Texas. Sometimes survey boundaries are discovered hundreds of feet from their previous locations. It should also go without saying that you need to employ surveyors when it comes to drilling your locations or making a business critical decision.

4. Used an automapper to “map the easy ones.” The rest fell out into a bin for review later, and later never came: Some of you also think that a parcel mapped to the nearest mile is good enough. You know who you are.