RED WING, Minn. -- Leanne Knott’s work as a geographic information system specialist used to focus on making paper maps. Now, the paper has been replaced by apps and websites to highlight local communities.
“I’m interested in exploring ways to share information and engage, that are … heavily visual, immersive, compelling stories. And I think stories are important, too,” she said.
Knott works for the city of Red Wing and Goodhue County. One of Knott’s focuses for both governmental entities is creating mapping projects.
“Destination Red Wing Story Map” went live this month after Knott presented her work to Red Wing City Council. Through this site, residents and visitors can find cycling, hiking and mountain biking trails along with sites dedicated to other activities and things to see in the area. The sites include numerous photos, videos and maps (the map of Barn Bluff is three dimensional) that show everything from where to play disc golf and places to eat when cycling the Cannon Valley Trail.
“Part of it was to create a really compelling marketing piece, because I love Red Wing so much," Knott said. "I love this region so much. And, I don’t think that people always understand what we offer for a community of 16,000. It’s actually pretty phenomenal.”
While the site has only been live for about two weeks, Knott has found that it receives about 300 visitors a day, many planning their bike trips.
Knott’s began creating community maps in 2016 after attending a national conference and seeing the tool used by nonprofits. Using prior research to map local pottery history as a springboard, Knott created a digital map of the historic pottery industry in Goodhue County and Red Wing. The experiment resulted in Knott being asked to be the keynote speaker of the 2018 pottery convention.
“I’m a big fan of building on what you already have, as much as possible,” Knott noted about the pottery project.
The Destination Red Wing project began when Knott and her supervisor, Patrick Ramaker, talked about promoting the city of Red Wing on a regional level. Within three months, Knott had created the site.
The love of creating and telling stories is not new to Knott. Before going to grad school to get her masters in geographic information systems from St. Mary’s University, Knott wrote novels. Her book "The Keeper’s Daughter" was nominated for the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards in 2006.
Knott thought about writing more, but is currently busy with her family and working as a GIS specialist for the city and county. She also explained that after staring at a computer all day, she wants to do something that is not screen-related when she gets home.
For now, Knott plans to continue creating story maps.
“It’s a highly visual and immersive environment," she said. "And so, I think hopefully it just draws people right in and gets people excited.”
For more information about story maps in Red Wing, visit the Destination Red Wing Story Map.