June 1, 2010 By Karen Wilkinson
It's been hailed as the best website ever for outdoor enthusiasts in California, and while that assessment may seem presumptuous, it's hard to find another online source with so much information that's as easily navigable.
The site, www.findrecreation.parks.ca.gov, combines open-space data from more than 860 public and nongovernmental organizations to provide interactive maps with search features. Users can search for any park -- from a local playground to Yosemite National Park -- by inputting a ZIP code, address, park or city name.
Launched May 7, the site was created in partnership by California State Parks and GreenInfo Network, a nonprofit that built the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD) -- the most comprehensive GIS-enabled open-space inventory created for California and the largest detailed inventory of its kind in the nation.
Some of the coolest website features -- according to GreenInfo Network Executive Director Larry Orman -- include the map viewing options (one can view a traditional, satellite or 3-D map), navigation instructions (driving, bicycling or walking), and the ability to search for public campgrounds.
"California has the largest and most complex array of protected land in the world, with over 850 agencies that own and manage protected areas," Orman said. "The main thing is, the website has everything -- the mapping is crystal clear, even nontechnical people can use it."
It's also fairly easy to navigate. After entering an address, city or ZIP code into the site's search engine, a list of all parks is displayed, along with a detailed street map or aerial image of every recreational opportunity in the area. By clicking a specific site (on the list or map), a user can get directions to the location and view available trails. This feature is still a work in progress, however, so not all trails are displayed.
"We designed FindRecreation to enable people to find parks near home," California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman said in a press release. "We hope Californians will discover the natural wonders of this state, have fun, get some exercise and feel better."
The site features CPAD's database that houses information for 49 million acres of protected open space and 15,000 parks. It uses Google Map directions for its navigation features, and GreenInfo Network's custom Map View to illustrate locations and terrain. The data is hosted through the Amazon cloud, Orman said.
While it boasts many useful features, some parts of the site are works in progress, Orman said. For example, the trail search feature isn't fully functional, as more trail data needs to be gathered and incorporated into the site, he said.
A mobile app is also in progress for the site, so people can consume mapping as a service, Orman said. Another feature to look forward to is a list of available recreational activities, so people can better plan their outdoor adventures, Orman said.
While California is the first to incorporate data compiled on www.parkinfo.org, -- a nationwide effort to aggregate public land availability -- Orman hopes to see other states get on board with similar efforts.
"If you've got the data, it's relatively easy to build the viewer," he said. "It's a great vehicle for government agencies to have access to show people everything."
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