So, Here’s a Story (Map)

How the City of Highland Park is Engaging with Residents and Keeping Them Informed.


Local governments frequently look for ways to engage with residents, especially keeping them up to speed of any ongoing or future capital improvements to the community. Such improvements can include updates to aging infrastructure, installation of new signage or street markings, replacement of sewer sections, facility updates, and even tree planting.

Changing Course

Recently, the Public Works Department in the City of Highland Park acknowledged that its current process was just too difficult to identify and organize each of the necessary details that keep residents and elected officials informed, and keep staff on the same page. The workflow was disorganized. At times it was confusing. Various stakeholders knew some, but often not all the vital project information. Worst of all, it was not supporting the city’s mission of effective and transparent governance.

This is a very common pain point among the members of the GIS Consortium, which MGP has helped address in a standardized and manageable manner through its solution of Live Community Maps. By deploying this solution, specifically a “story map,” Highland Park quickly managed to centralize necessary Capital Improvement information, highlight the most the important features and locations, and bring key data to life for all parties. A story map is an online, interactive map which combines a geographic map, narrative text, and multimedia content to tell users a story and provide a clearer picture of what and where things are happening.  The best part about the Live Community Maps solution is that it empowers community staff to play an active role in the development and upkeep. This means that information does not go out of date just because a GIS Specialist is not on site that day.

Informing the Audience With Interactive Mapping

After The GIS team met with City of Highland Park Director of Public Works, Ramesh Kanapareddy, the team decided that this solution was the most effective for the City’s need. A plan was then put into action to create the City’s first-ever “Capital Improvement Plan Story Map.” Their map includes a dynamic base map of each of the unique project locations, a brief description of the work being done and why it’s valuable, a photo representing the work, and most importantly a point of contact with contact information.

The GIS Department partnered with an Engineering Administrator, Cecelia Suarez, to determine the unique content for the map. Once decided, Cecelia then synced with each of the respective stakeholders to gather each project’s necessary dates, details, and impact to residents. Once this information was collected, the GIS Specialist then mocked up a template for the map and entered in the data Cecelia gathered. To create efficiency in data management, the City’s GIS Specialist conducted a simple training for Cecelia on how to maintain the map to handle any project updates.

All Your Data In One Place 

One of the most valuable outcomes of this solution is the ability for the Public Works Department to utilize this public-facing interactive tool as both a pseudo-roadmap and project tracker, as it’s now regularly presented in team meetings. The CIP Story Map centralizes information so that staff and residents may conveniently access all of the City’s improvement plans and details. The staff has found it to be an easy, fast, and creative way to inform one another and the entire community.

To date, at least a quarter of the members of the GISC have instituted this solution for their CIP plans, which helps in the continued sharing of expertise and innovation among communities! By having a standardized mapping solution like this, communities spend far less time and fewer dollars by not having to create something from scratch.  Lastly, it’s a terrific way to learn from neighboring communities.

View the Story Map

You can check out Highland Park’s CIP Story Map by clicking here!

Take the Lead    

Discover, innovate, and collaborate with the GIS Consortium today! Contact your community’s GIS Specialist to discuss project opportunities, Consortium services, and GIS.

If you would like to learn more about this initiative or if you have questions, please contact

Author: Sean Murphy, Client Account Manager

Published July 17, 2017