Thursday, December 31, 2009

Double Monumentation

When deciding whether to accept a found monument, there are three factors that need to be considered. First, if there is a specific description of the character of the monument on the plat or legal description, does it conform to that description? Second, does it fit my calculated position to a reasonable degree, considering the technology that was available to the surveyor who originally set it? Finally, does the monument have a history? If other surveyors have been relying on it over several years, it is not in the interest of the public good to change boundaries just to satisfy your ego.

If your opinion of where it should be does not exactly coincide with where you believe you have found it, then note that on your record of survey, don’t double monument. It makes us all look bad.

I have been surveying for over thirty years, and have heard the following comment too many times, “You surveyors are all stupid. You can’t even agree where that monument goes”. In the case where some person sets his monument within hundredths of where he found one, I have to agree. That surveyor is not knowledgeable enough to realize that the distance is less than the error inherent in his survey or his equipment.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Working in a Winter Wonderland

When people imagine Arizona, one of the first things they generally think of is the desert. The usual depictions in the media are of cactus, rocks and clear skies. They see on the weather channel about the 100 degree and higher temperatures in Phoenix and Tucson. On the news they may hear of deadly dust storms and of people dying of thirst in the desert.

What many people are unaware of is that this perception only applies to the southern one-third of the state. The northeastern part of Arizona is characterized by high rolling plains cut by steep canyons, which is part of the region known as the Colorado Plateau. Where I live, in the City of Flagstaff, is in the midst of a band of high mountains and pine forest that stretches from eastern New Mexico, through the central and northwest parts of Arizona, and into southern Utah. This mountain belt has more in common, geographically speaking, with the Rocky Mountains of Colorado than with the southern desert.

Winters here, while not as harsh as those you will find in more northern climates, can still be challenging for the Land Surveyor. The average elevation in the Flagstaff area ranges between 6000 ft. (1830 m) to 9000 ft. (2740 m) above mean sea level. At this high altitude, we get an average of 100.3 inches (254 cm) of snow annually, which might not seem like much, but is enough to complicate matters for those of us who make our living in the great outdoors.

Much of the area is rural and access is generally over dirt roads that become impassable in the winter, forcing the surveyor to hike, often using snowshoes, from the paved roads to the work areas. Monuments buried under the snow are often times difficult and time consuming to find, making boundary surveys more costly. Most of our clients are from out-of-state and make the assumption that Arizona equals hot. They have a difficult time accepting the surveyor’s explanation that their project will be impractical or exceedingly expensive until the snow melts in the spring.

On a personal note, I happen to like working in the winter, especially on surveys in the forest. There is something serene in the silence, broken only by the crunch of snow under my feet. At those times, I can feel that I am alone in the wilderness, with none of the sounds of traffic or blaring of boom boxes to disturb me. I get a sense of satisfaction in completing my tasks under difficult conditions and there is nothing better than that hot thermos of soup or coffee after a hard day’s work.