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Modern land surveying a passion for Vilas County GIS TechnicianSubmitted: 04/28/2015
Modern land surveying a passion for Vilas County GIS Technician
Story By Ben Meyer

WINCHESTER - Centuries ago, men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln walked through the woods with compasses and chain links. They helped plot the American wilderness as America's early land surveyors.

On a spring day in Vilas County, land surveyor Tony Jones' mission is similar in many ways.

"Today's quest is to locate the markers that define the state line between northern Wisconsin and the southern part of the U.P.," he says.

Early surveyors originally put wooden markers here in the 1840s. They were replaced by stone markers in the 1920s.

"Those are still out there," Jones says of the stone markers.

Jones serves as the GIS Technician for Vilas County. A big part of his job is creating links between the physical world and the digital world.

"We know that marker is there," he says. "We know how now we can take this survey and map this survey and represent it on our online maps."

Jones lines up his equipment on top of a stone marker he found in the woods. It will calibrate with quarter-inch accuracy to satellites above.

"Everything's contained right here. [It has] sub-centimeter accuracy," he says of his equipment, which looks something like a tall tripod.

"What I have today, aside from the GPS receiver, is my metal detector, and then of course my machete, in case we need to – you know, bears and things," he says.

For Tony, work doesn't feel much like work.

"It's art. It's history. It's being outdoors. It's the search and recovery. In some cases, it's archaeology," he says.

He loves the feeling of connecting the past and present in a profession that's as old as this country.

"It's because of what was done out here that we were able to actually now still be standing here in the United States of America," Jones says. "It's a great feeling."

Jones loves his job dearly. He loves it so much that life would be pretty similar were he to win the lottery.

"Everybody always jokes, 'If I won the lottery, here is what I would do,'" Jones says. "If I did win the lottery, [this is] exactly what I'd do. I'd buy a bunch of expensive equipment, and I'd just look for these corners that we're looking for today."

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