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Trail enthusiasts to benefit from web app

10/31/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Participating in the kick-off event Oct. 29 for the ToTheTrails.com web application were Code for America fellows and local officials from the city of Akron; Summit County; Metro Parks, Serving Summit County; Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP); Conservancy for CVNP; and Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Bravo
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Hikers in Summit County will soon be able to access a web application to help them link from trail to trail.

ToTheTrails.com will be accessible starting Nov. 13, local officials announced at a kick-off event Oct. 29 at the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition’s (OECC) Richard Howe House.

“For the first time, trail users will have a single, online option to see how to move from trail-to-trail and better plan their outdoor adventures in Summit County,” said Summit County Executive Russ Pry. “Prior to this point, the ability to map online connections between separately managed trail systems wasn’t in place.”

“For example, users of the web app can soon discover that their favorite Towpath section bumps up against the Buckeye Trail in one area, find an offshoot to Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Blue Hen Falls in another, or easily map a connection to Metro Parks, Serving Summit County’s Bike & Hike Trail,” added OECC president and CEO Dan Rice.

The “civic tech” project is the culmination of a year’s work that was made possible through the efforts of three Code for America (CfA) fellows through a $250,000 grant awarded to the county from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

In addition to CfA and the Knight Foundation, partners in the project include Summit County, the city of Akron, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, OECC, Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), Conservancy for CVNP and Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study.

Founded in 2009, the Code for America Fellowship Program provides an opportunity for the “web generation” to give back by embedding developers and designers in local government to explore new approaches to local challenges.

The Summit County project was significant, according to participants, because it allowed for the first time the CfA to work with all levels of government on a single project.

During the kickoff this week, fellows were on hand to explain how the project works and how the community of users will be instrumental to its success.

“The great news about a web app is how it works,” said CfA fellow Alan Williams. “It gets better over time. At its core, a database supports it, and we’ve spent our time building this framework. In the coming weeks, we’ll be completing that stage of the process — seeding the database with trail data from Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Metro Parks, Serving Summit County. ”

Project Manager Patrick Bravo, deputy director of the Summit County Department of Community and Economic Development, said starting Nov. 13 local residents and trail users can begin testing the framework of ToTheTrails.com by noting what works, what’s missing and providing feedback and trail updates.

“Then every time new data is entered, the web app is enriched, it grows and it works better,” Williams said. “The sooner citizens and communities can have input, the faster it grows.”

During the next few weeks, the CfA team will add a mobile version, and municipalities will be given administrative access to update the web app. The public will be able to send their feedback via email to Hello@ToTheTrails.com. Ultimately, users will be able to access and navigate local trail information on ToTheTrails.com using computers, tablets or mobile phones.

Officials said CVNP and Metro Parks staff will review and update content on a quarterly basis. The OECC, AMATS, Akron and Summit County also will provide regular updates. Also, a Civic Tech Code for Summit County Brigade is being formed.

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