One Guelph man is using his map-making hobby to help residents rediscover their connection to Guelph, one route at a time.
Abhilash Kantamneni has been creating maps of some areas in the city as a way to provide insight into interesting things going on in different neighbourhoods. Previous maps include routes of Halloween houses with amazing decorations to see and another showed the city's many public parks for residents to explore.
“It gives them a reason to go out and to be out.” explains Kantamneni.
As a geography PhD student at the University of Guelph, Kantamneni said he has been training to see things on a map, but has always had an interest in mappings things that matter.
In 2018, he created an interactive map of all the wards within Guelph to help residents understand which councillor and school board members were running where they live for a municipal election. The project took 50 hours to complete.
Currently, Kantamneni uses Google to make the maps he shared with residents. Each one takes only three minutes to make once he has a route in mind.
“I am a man of modest talents, one of them is map making," said Kantamneni, "It gives me a sense of satisfaction."
The maps are shared on the Guelph This & That Facebook group, an online neighbourhood for Guelph citizens.
His work has gathered lots of interest, with some online users referring to him as the ‘Guelph Maps Guy.’
While he is grateful for all the support, Kantamneni said his favourite responses to his maps are the ones where people want to also share interesting things they see within the community, creating a chain.
"It nurtures that deeper commitment to your community,” he said, “It’s nice to see people end up doing that stuff for others.”
Along with creating maps of fun things to do, Kantamneni also created a map to help outline food shelters during the beginning of the pandemic. That map was used for a community-based website called guelphcoronavirus.ca which is now on hiatus now that there are official resources available for residents.
As the pandemic continues to affect everyday life, Kantamneni said there has been a loss of community, impacting people’s connection to Guelph and to each other.
“A lot of people are feeling alone or feeling a little lonely,” he said. “They’re running out of ideas of how to support themselves.”
With people looking for some sort of break from the grim realities of COVID, the maps are one small thing that are helping to uplift people and their view of their city.
"It’s such a goofy, small thing, but it seems to have such a profound impact on how people feel about their community.”
Having lived in four different countries before settling in Guelph three years ago, Kantamneni said the maps are also helping him to continue actively cultivating a sense of belonging to this area.
“I think of Guelph as home,” said Kantamneni, “And I want to give others the same sense of belonging.”
To check out some of the maps, click here.