Interactive Trail Guide

May 20, 2013

A new initiative in Summit County aims to raise awareness about the opportunities for hiking and biking in public parks.

Anne Glausser of Ohio Public Radio station WCPN in Cleveland reports.

The project involves… you guessed it… technology.

The goal is to create interactive trail maps that are cell-phone accessible, easy to use and chock full of information.

It’s not clear what it’ll ultimately look like, but is likely to include a new website and phone app.

(Fade in sound of crowd chatter…fade to low and stay underneath)

RICE:  If you’re on the trail, maybe you’re out there on the trail, you see a Kingfisher, a Blue Heron, you can maybe dial up some information about that.

Dan Rice is with the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition, a partner in the project and a host of this get-together in Akron to update residents on its progress.

RICE:  Part of the motivation for me is to have one site so visitors can get information about any trail in Summit County--a one-stop shopping, make it as user-friendly as possible.

In February, the Knight Foundation funded a group of tech fellows, from the San Francisco-based nonprofit Code for America, to come in and develop the system.

The Summit County Metroparks just independently released an app at the beginning of this month but it only covers the trails under its own management.

It doesn’t include city, state and national parks in the region.

Summit County official Patrick Bravo says this disconnect between park systems can be confusing.

He says the new product will include information about ALL of the county’s parkland:

BRAVO:  What you want to know is how do I get from point A to point B, what’s the trail like, how do I find information, what are the naturalist qualities about this trail, what’s the history.  There’s a number of things you want to know but you don’t necessarily care which trail system you’re on.

There’s a big APPetite for this sort of all-inclusive park resource.

There’s even a day of “civic hacking” planned for early June by local techies who want to create a similar product for all of Northeast Ohio.

Akron resident Barbara Feld says she’d be first in line for this sort of thing.

FELD:  We need to have this right there so people can just access it immediately.  It needs to have an app.

She’s not the only one.

Kyle Kutuchief is an avid runner and hiker and would welcome a central place for park info.

KUTUCHIEF:  I think to date the way that people have found trails is word of mouth, right?  You have a friend that said oh I went to Blue Hen Falls or I went to Brandywine Falls, or whatever, and that’s how you find it.

One of the Code for America fellows charged with creating this new product, Dan Avery, says he’s impressed by the pride people here have in their parks.

AVERY:  It was really surprising to us.  I mean we sort of thought, oh they’ve got a park system and it’s valuable, but it really sunk in after a few meetings in February, just how important it was.

The new product will be released on Open Source in November.

Developers say it’ll provide a blueprint for other regions interested in creating an interactive trail guide for park lovers.