From duck blinds to shipwrecks, Dare’s GIS maps are a treasure trove of info

By on February 4, 2023

The Dare County GIS parcel or property map.

There’s something for everyone on the Dare County GIS (Geographic Information System) page. Find the value of a particular Dare County property, locate the county’s duck blinds and identify their owners, or go back in time to learn about the area’s first real tourist hotel (built in 1838). It’s all there in an easy-to-use format.

Whether someone wants to find the value of a particular Dare County property, locate the county’s duck blinds and identify their owners, or go back in time to learn about the area’s first real tourist hotel (built in 1838), the Dare County’s GIS (Graphic Information System) page Geographical Information System (GIS) is the one-stop shop.

The work of the GIS team, which includes coordinator Greg Ball and specialists Clay Grant and Kristen Stilson, illustrates just how far map technology has come and how useful it can be to local residents.

There are, of course, the standard property or “parcel data” maps that just about every town, county or state has on file. But that just scratches the surface in Dare County. There are maps of hunting blinds, state and locally maintained roads, history and more.

According to Ball, in 1995 Dare County was the first county in the state to put a GIS map online. That was the property map and “the whole idea behind it was to keep people from having to drive all the way from Hatteras Village to the Manteo courthouse to do their deed research,” he said.

When the county began using GIS, they put in place a system that very few counties as small as Dare have done. “We do it all in house. A lot of other counties that offer GIS, you’ll notice it’s managed by a third party,” Ball said. “If there’s some error or some change or some update…we can do it on the fly.”

GIS’s introduction predated Ball’s role there. But he’s been in his current position for 24 years and was with the county’s water department before moving to GIS. The water department is one of the more important users of GIS mapping, although the information it needs and uses is not available to the public.

“We map out water lines, valves, hydrants, meters down to great detail at the facilities,” explained Grant, who created the maps. The information is critical for a number of reasons—waterline repairs, peak flow times and even firefighting.

“He [Grant] is able to share with the fire departments where the highest flow hydrants are,” Ball said. [One] hydrant will put out 400 gallons a minute, this one only 100. They’ve got all that information.”

There are also maps done for Dare County Emergency Management showing response times based on traffic patterns, helping to place assets in the best locations. That data, however, is for internal county use. What the public sees on the GIS website reflects the creative work of Stilson, a point that Ball emphasizes.

“Everything that’s public facing…Kristen deals with—the Parcel Map, the Days Gone by Map, all these fun things. That’s all open-source software. We don’t have to pay a license [fee] on it. It’s all down to Kristin and her ability to make it do what we want it to do securely.”

What the public gets to see is pretty fascinating.

There is the Dare County 150th Anniversary Timeline map. Clicking on a historic point on the map brings up a quick synopsis of the event and a photo. The newest map is the OBX Days Gone By map, another interactive presentation that comes with photos and a brief description and provides a great trip down nostalgia lane in Dare County. There is also a map that locates the shipwrecks of the Outer Banks and provides a timeline.

Stilson, who double majored in marine science and geology with a minor in GIS technology, said she is doing her dream job.

Dare County “really gave me my first shot doing the online stuff and I love to do it,” she said. The maps she has created are remarkable in how user friendly they are. And the information is often significant.

When Dare County flood zones changed in 2020, Stilson went to work and produced a swipe map, enabling users to swipe across the map to see what the old flood zone was compared to the new one.

“I was surprised at how many people use this…to see what their property used to be,” she said.

One of the more popular GIS offerings is the duck blind map, with Stilson noting that it is “the third most-used map…So many hunters use that map a lot.”

The map, as it turns out, serves a purpose in addition to allowing hunters to see where duck blinds are located. Stilson built Melva Garrison, Clerk to the Dare County Game and Wildlife Commission, a map so she can actually go in and enter the locations of the blind and other data. “She used to pay for software to do this, and now she has a free map,” she added.

The maps are a combination of important data and fun, and sometimes the information is a combination of the two. As an example, there’s a great map showing the county’s recreational opportunities with pictures people have sent in to highlight the selections. Click on the icon on the left side, make a selection, then choose the highlighted choices on the map.

Then there is always planning for the future, something Stilson is already thinking about.

“One [map] could be an overall beach nourishment map where you can go and see all the past projects, maybe before and after photos, how much sand, money and time. Then I think, some sort of demographic type map, you will have different tabs you can click on and use census population data,” she said.


  • james

    The maps are also used to sudo spy on property owners and algorithms are written to trigger alerts to the government when modifications are made to ones property. Next up is when the government x-rays and has GIS maps capable of mapping the inside of your actual home which is not far fetched. GIS and Artificial Intelligence is wonderous such as allowing a blind person in essence to see the world around them and for a water department to map water lines, but just like nuclear weapons governments will always find ways to unleased the monster on it’s own citizens and the world. The article is correct to say it is a “treasure trove” of information especially for the government who loves to track and control it’s citizens. The tipping point is when AI becomes “conscious” and GIS maps can tell the government when you move a piece of furniture inside your home from one bedroom to another.

    Saturday, Feb 4 @ 5:37 pm
  • Stuck in traffic

    Someone show Currituck how to do that. Especially the duck blind mapping.

    Sunday, Feb 5 @ 9:47 pm
  • Lemonshirt

    I have properties in another not-too-distant county. Dare’s GIS map system is by far superior both in terms of ease-of-use as well as the quality of information. THANKS!

    Monday, Feb 6 @ 12:27 pm
  • Old Man

    Kudos to Dare GIS and their parent department Information Technology. Great work. By the way, the “algorithm” mentioned in an earlier comment is not true.

    Monday, Feb 6 @ 12:37 pm
  • Charles

    Speaking on behalf of the ducks, they are asking for less duck blinds.

    Monday, Feb 6 @ 3:02 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Hard to argue with that.

    Monday, Feb 6 @ 3:50 pm