Friday, January 11, 2008

New Hampshire towns

So while following the New Hampshire primary results the other day, I came up with a possible new Every Whatever.

Every Town in New Hampshire (EFTNH)!

Towns in New Hampshire are a bit different than the way that they are done in most other parts of the country. Basically they function as mini-counties. Each town may have several villages within the town boundaries, but each town (as well as cities which are just bigger towns) has its own government, and each county is sub-divided into several of these towns (for instance, Hillsborough County has 31).

Further complicating things are the fact that New Hampshire also has things called townships, "grants", "locations" and "purchases" which are also sub-divisions of a county, but they are more like just un-organized county space (similar to how townships work in Ohio). These have no self-government and many of them are uninhabited.

So, EFTNH. Doesn't sound that bad, right? I mean New Hampshire isn't a very big state, right? It's 44th in land area with only 8,968 square miles. I had previously come up with an EFCNH route that was only like 4-5 hours. I can't find it right now but it was something like that - there's only 10 counties!

The rub comes in with sheer numbers. As you may have surmised from my mention of how many towns are in just Hillsborough County (31), there are a LOT of them! 234 to be exact (221 towns and 13 cities). There are 24 (I think) of those location / grant / purchase type things that will not be counted. All but 2 of them are in the northernmost county; Coos (1 in Carroll and 1 in Grafton).

So, I was hashing this around with Carey and he compared that to his trip to every municipality in Harris Co, Texas. 34 municipalities and it took him 5 hours and 6 minutes. New Hampshire is approximately 5 times bigger than Harris Co (1,729 sq. mi.) On the one hand, Harris Co probably has better roads (certainly less hilly and certainly better than the ones in the north of NH), but on the other hand, the towns in NH are more densely packed in. Still, that data point seems to indicate that it may be close to 24 hours, which increases its "cool factor" at least in my eyes. Another data point is that my Every Municipality route for Hamilton Co Ohio (407 sq. mi) clocks in at 50 municipalities and 6:46. So we shall see!

One problem that I was finding was some accurate mappage. Mapquest gives you the county borders, but not the town borders. I found a few places with town borderes, but none with roads as well. If I have to do an out and back, I need to be able to know how far I need to go to the next town over. Or definitive answers on whether certain roads go through certain towns. I searched around and eventually we found some ArcGIS image programs, but they weren't ideal. Finally, we stumbled on Granit, which bills itself as "New Hampshire's Statewide Geographic Information System (GIS) Clearinghouse". Very useful! Not only did they have plenty of GIS datasets for that kind of thing, they also offered 2 very useful maps off of their map library - a PDF with town boundaries and major roads as well as a cleaner PDF that just has the boundaries.

So I will investigate and report