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OpenTrails Grows Up — Along with Open Data Education

As Tom Loosemore of GDS fame said at this year’s Code for America Summit, digital government is not complicated, but it can be hard work.

Open data in particular takes effort — especially when working with new data specifications like OpenTrails. That is why Code for America facilitated the first-ever OpenTrails Course this past August, where more than a dozen governments learned how to convert GIS data and publish trail maps on the web with the OpenTrails data format.

Throughout August, we conducted four webinars, three “homework” sessions, two workflow surveys, and one big Slack channel. We developed a community of practitioners that included cities, counties, park districts, and state agencies from Alaska to Virginia. Together, we learned about the fundamentals of web mapping, the value of OpenTrails, and the business of open data. We also learned about one another’s GIS workflows, and we captured best practices for common tasks and transformations in the OpenTrails Guidebook. The course was overwhelmingly successful, and its format will be applied across subjects in future and training and educational offerings.

Now, 2014 Code for America Accelerator company Trailhead Labs is offering a second OpenTrails Course beginning November 5. If you are interested in getting citizens good information about the outdoors in your region, sign up today. As a sponsor of the course, Code for America is proud to offer members of our community a 30% discount.

Code for America sponsored the OpenTrails data specification during its formal Request for Comment period, which brought together advisors like the National Recreation and Park Association, the Trust for Public Land, Esri, Strava, and AllTrails. We also helped seed the ecosystem with the OpenTrails Converter and Validator tools and OpenTrails Mobile, an iPhone app coming out this fall. With the OpenTrails Course, Code for America worked with Trailhead Labs to develop a model for OpenTrails education that helps governments adopt the format and develop key capabilities for 21st century government.

The close of the inaugural course marks the end of Code for America’s incubation of OpenTrails. The OpenTrails community has matured and become independent. It is an open data ecosystem that Code for America will continue to support along with other key community members. As an ever greater number of governments and technologists contribute to OpenTrails tools, apps, and documentation, we are proud to take our proper role as peer among many.