User:Joshdoe/Burke Centre Conservator article

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This is a draft of an article to appear in the Burke Centre Conservator, a newsletter for Burke Centre, Fairfax County, Virginia, which is distributed to around 7000 homes and businesses. I release this as public domain or equivalent.

Now published: diary entry, burkecentre.org PDF of the newsletter

Draft submitted to editor

As some of you are aware, Burke Centre has a trail map that was created several years ago with the help of Robert Pew from RestonPaths.com and Oaks Trustee Luanne Smith. It is a good basic map that is available in print at the Conservancy office and online. However there are several shortcomings, chief among them is the lack of an interactive online map and a finer level of detail. Have you ever wanted to know the fastest way to walk to the library using the trails, or to be able to search for all tot lots with swings, or to see exactly where cluster boundaries are located? Imagine a website that has this kind of information and even allows you to add missing features. This is all possible thanks to a project called OpenStreetMap.

OpenStreetMap (OSM) was started in 2004 to allow the creation of a free and open map of the world. If you’re familiar with Wikipedia, OSM follows the same model by allowing users to correct or enhance the map through the website OpenStreetMap.org. This is radically different from how other online maps work, but allows communities to map the features that are important to them.

So what can be mapped? There is no limit to what can be added to OSM, though I’ve been focusing on the trails that cover Burke Centre. Once a trail is in OSM, websites like Open.Mapquest.com can use the data to create walking directions that follow the sidewalks and trails. I’ve added additional information such as stairs and curb ramps, which can be used to determine what areas are wheelchair accessible. Adding such objects as bridges, tot lots, and even waste baskets are not only useful to residents, but can also serve as an inventory of Conservancy assets.

How can you participate? The simplest way is to use the map, and to tell others about it. The website Open.Mapquest.com allows you to report errors or missing features on the map, which will then be seen and corrected by other OSM contributors like myself. The next level of involvement would be to provide suggestions and feedback on what you think should be mapped. With the website WalkingPapers.org you can print out a section of the map, sketch in changes, and upload it to the website or mail it to me. Of course you can edit the map yourself, and if there is sufficient interest, we could arrange for a training session.

I’ve talked to a few of the Trustees, as well as the Open Space Committee, and they are very interested in the potential of this project. Hopefully we can have a presentation and discussion on this to see what level of involvement Burke Centre Conservancy itself wants to have, which could include sponsoring scout mapping projects. In the mean time I will continue mapping, with the goal of creating the best map of Burke Centre. Why don’t you check out your neighborhood on Open.Mapquest.com and see how it looks?