Columbines bloom on the Ice Lake Trail in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado. (Photo: sumikophoto, Shutterstock)

Colorado Trail Managers Share Data for Map

During the process of creating the Colorado Trail Explorer, an interactive open data map providing information on 17,000 trails, Colorado’s Department for Parks and Wildlife sent out a call for information from all 221 of the state’s trail managers.

The map, launched on June 2, contains data submissions from 90 of those managers. Lauren Truitt, the department’s public information and website manager, said participation will only increase.

The Parks and Wildlife department offers a submission form for trail managers to contribute information to the map. However, Truitt said sifting through submissions and formatting the data clearly is difficult because trail managers across the state are not required to store their information in a particular way.

Truitt said that the creation of this map indicated to both her team and the trail managers that a standard for trail data management would be beneficial to all.

“The hardest part is that each of the trail managers manage data in a different way. Through this tool, we all realized there’s a need. All of the trail managers really learned the opportunity is there,” Truitt said. “Plenty of trails cross jurisdictions. It exposed a new opportunity for all trail managers.”

The interactive map, which covers 39,000 miles of trails, reveals information about recreational areas ranging from equestrian paths to motor biking routes. The team produced the map, which is accessible on desktops and mobile devices, using GIS tools created by Esri. It is the state’s first attempt to provide information on every trail through a single mapping tool.

This map is part of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Colorado the Beautiful Initiative, which seeks to heighten exposure and accessibility to the state’s natural resources. Truitt and her team started work on the map two years ago. Since its launch, the Colorado Trail Explorer has received 31,000 unique visits.

“All of that information is at your fingertips,” Truitt said. “We designed the map to be intuitive.”

In addition to showing people what different trails have to offer, the map also performs the important function of connecting trails to one another. Connecting trails is part of Hickenlooper’s “16 in 2016” initiative, launched last year, which outlines projects for 16 trails across the state to be carried out in the next few years.

Because trail managers have more intricate data on the trails than constituents do, Truitt said that hearing from them ensures a higher level of accountability.

However, the Parks and Wildlife Department is also gauging input from the base of people who actually use the site. Truitt said feedback has generally been positive.

“The comments are ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ The effort put into it from the past two years really demonstrates the commitment of trail managers and the people of Colorado,” Truitt said. “It’s a commitment to recreation and to each other.”

Truitt said that her team has been in possession of most of the data that appears on the map for a year. While there is no set date for the map to reflect information from all 221 trail managers, she said data collection will increase now that she and her team have gotten into the rhythm of a submission process.

“It takes time and willingness to go through this process. These types of maps don’t just happen,” Truitt said. “It takes time to get where we are today.”

Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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