Maps and Mappers of the 2023 calendar: Conner Houston, January

Q. Tell Us About Yourself: 

A. Hi, I’m Connor Houston ( and am a geographer and a geospatial professional. I work for the Province, putting Ontario (CANADA) on the map by using a variety of GIS technologies, introducing Ontario to potential investors and constantly striving towards faster, better, cheaper geospatial systems of insights, engagement and record. My journey into the mapping stack began 20 years ago and have been fortunate to work and volunteer with a variety of organizations domestically and internationally over the years. 

Q. Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know): 

A. Launched in the summer of 2022, Trail Hub is a community HUB for mountain bikers, hikers, nature lovers, snowshoers & cross country skiers to access over 240km of local trails. I was introduced to the founders of Trail Hub through our mutual involvement in Active Transportation Committees in our Region, just as Trail Hub was looking at ways to showcase the trail system to their visitors.  Serendipitously we connected just as they were undertaking the project and just as I was wrapping up a very awesome personal Heat Map for a friend, who had the amazing idea to create a poster of his riding accomplishments over the pandemic to hang in his office for motivation.  

The calendar map is a smaller version of the original 40” x 60” map which is mounted in the Trail Hub main hallway as visitors enter the facility. The primary function of the map was not for navigation, wayfinding or quick reference. This map was designed to engage the reader in a way that draws them into the local environment. Their first impression is hopefully “that’s a big beautiful environment”. Second “whoa.…there’s a lot of trails”. Third, “lets go explore!” And fourth, if they are returning visitors, “where’s that trail? – over there, see that’s the hill we climbed”. Engaging the reader trying to draw them in, the labels were left at a minimal size, so that at a glance you can’t tell what the trail name is. It’s only when you take a step closer and see the details of the imagery, elevation and then the trail names become apparent. 

Q. Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A. The data for the map came from three sources, all processed in QGIS and exported to GIMP to create the final layout. The main aerial photo was styled in Mapbox Studio using their Maxar imagery. This was connected in QGIS as a web service. The elevation rasters are a combination of a 0.50cm DSM and a 5m DEM from the Province of Ontario GeoHub. The hillshade, slope and aspect derivatives were created in QGIS using Grass. The trail lines are from OSM with updates from myself and community members ensuring they are located and named correctly. Using GIMP, the Trail Hub branding was incorporated including the font, colours and graphic elements. The trail labels and POIs were all manually placed using GIMP as well.

The map has been a great success at Trail Hub. Additional derivatives have been created for social media as well as postcards for distribution at events.