At the mapping party in Hyattsville a few months ago, I stumbled apon and mapped part of the Star Spangled Banner Trail, a National Park Service Historic Trail covering sites throughout the region. Gave me the idea to organize a mapping party around the trail, and maybe coordinate with the NPS. I'm a history geek, and love getting outside, so OSM is basically an excuse to explore.
So I cast out onto the mappingdc list and twitter to get in touch with some folks at the NPS who might be into the idea. Most everyone lead me to Nate Irwin and Mamata Akella. I had met Mamata super briefly at SOTM-US, simply hailing the greatness of the NPS being there; I didn't get a chance to learn about their work then. We had a chat the a couple weeks ago, and I'm really impressed.
The NPMap team are working to create a tile set specifically designed for use by the National Park Service. Out of the box tile sets have their place, but there's a need for maps that highlight detailed park information, in the beautiful cartographic style we know and love in NPS paper maps. Their software and data stack is familiar to us, built around TileMill. The results so far are stunning, familiar from trips to the parks, and they're still working hard to improve the style and rendering process. And they're documenting the process, introducing the rational for the tiles, and delving into the technicals.
Just the other day, they used all this to roll out a real time Blue Ride Highway road closure map!
If you look closely, you'll see that OpenStreetMap is a key part of these tiles. Right now, they bring in OSM mostly for detailed and correct roads. But more is possible. The level of data comprehensiveness and freshness varies a lot across the parks, depending on whether they have an active GIS resource; some places are up to date, others not. OpenStreetMap is similar. Some parks have amazing detail collected, beyond what's traditionally available in NPS Maps, while others are barely mapped at all in OSM. There's potential for a virtuous cycle of sharing between the NPS and OSM. To that, there's been work led by User:Glassman to identify candidate NPS data for import, and devise a tagging scheme for the National Parks.
This allows public domain NPS data to flow into OSM, but what about the other way. Of course, there are license issues. But otherwise, there's the interesting technical question of how to manage, conflate, and synchronize multiple master databases. The NPMaps team are looking at setting up their own infrastructure (ie local osm_website) to manage and collect change. GeoGit is an emerging approach to integrating OSM into GIS workflows. Or perhaps OSM can be something like a monitoring tool for NPS, changes providing details to their own surveyors and cartographers. What's helpful about the NPS case is the very well defined data boundaries, which will make it easier to try different legal and technical approaches to data sharing.
I suggested that MappingDC would be able to experiment and collaborate, by organizing mapping parties focused on NPS data collection and management, with local park managers and mapping folks. The Star Spangled Banner Trail might be too diffuse. Rock Creek Park, right in DC, is convenient and enjoyable and interesting. So I'm ready to discuss more with the park management at Rock Creek, and see if we can organize an event for sometime when things warm up a bit!