A yearlong project by the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department has reached fruition with the rollout of a new multimedia website showcasing the amenities at the county’s 182 parks.

The chief information officer of Parks and Rec, Mohammed Al Rawi, told Techwire in an interview how it felt to bring new technology to bear with new ideas. The site went live Friday. 

“It was such a fun project, and seeing it come to life is, to me, a great milestone,” he said. “Even though we’re dealing with big elephants like Resource Planning, and lots and lots of other projects, and millions and millions of documents, we had the right resources for this project.”

By its nature, the Parks and Rec Department has a more “fun” mission than other, more utilitarian government functions, Al Rawi said. The previous website was dated and too serious, he said.

“It was so dry. We’re not the regular government department — we provide experiences; we build memories. That website should be the first step to have a good experience and good memories.”

“RD Technology Solutions provided professional services including graphic designers, Web developers, photographers and videographers,” he said. The effort involved staff from Parks including IT, business owners, public information officers and assistants, and members of the public. They formed focus groups and contributed to what the website should look and feel like.

“This is a better representation” of what the county’s parks, trails, venues and beaches have to offer, he said. “We sent an army of photographers and videographers to capture 182 parks. We have terabytes of pictures. You can see what to expect before you go there.”

But it’s not just pretty video and images. The site offers a search feature based on geographic location, desired activities and amenities, special events, online registration where needed, and a host of other options.

“It makes you feel like you want to go to the park!” Al Rawi said. The department's new slogan is posted on the website: “Life. Enjoyed.” Al Rawi said that quick, punchy slogan was chosen because it characterizes the experience he wants the public to enjoy — and because it's succinct. 

"It's hashtaggable," he said.

He added: “We wanted to make this website a tool for our communities to quickly find parks and programs based on hundreds of filters such as amenities and program types, and to ensure that this information is constantly current and accurate; Parks and Recreation created a Master Parks Data Repository which consolidated all Parks data including GIS, Planning, Programs, amenities, facilities, so when Operations makes changes such as adding new facilities or amenities, it will automatically, through Web APIs, be populated on the website. This will also eliminate the need to make changes to 182 Park pages, as it will be dynamically updated.”

“The website is built on open source platforms and hosted on an OpenShift, a container application platform by Red Hat,” he added. “It’s a hosting environment which will dynamically respond to demand increase by adding more computing resources.”

With the yearlong update/upgrade done, Al Rawi was asked what’s next on the horizon that vendors may want to follow.

“Our next project, which we kick-started this month (for which we already have vendors and executed agreements), is a [Software-as-a-Service] SaaS-based Enterprise Asset Management implementation to manage inventories and work orders for 182 Parks and Recreation sites.

“We’ll implement an Enterprise Document Management System to host the 7 million Parks records that were digitized recently; deployment of the OpenSource Fleet Tracking system that was in development in coordination with Cal State LA. We’re expanding the Drowning Detection System to additional Parks Pools. Also related to the website, we’ll deploy the new Online Registration and Reservation System, with user- and mobile-friendly systems.

“We’re also developing a Parks app, an AI-Assistant for Parks website visitors and internally for Parks staff use. We’ll be deploying AR games at more Parks, as well as expanding Wi-Fi coverage at parks.”

This story was originally published by Techwire