14 March 2016

Data & apps about Seattle Parks & Recreation

Interested in making apps related to Seattle’s parks? Staff from Seattle Parks & Recreation visited the March 9 Open Seattle event and shared info about parks-related data & announced an upcoming hackathon focused on parks & rec!

Three civic tech projects were demoed as well, two of which are parks-related.

Announcement: March 18-19 Hackathon

Things kicked off with an announcement about AT&T’s Developer program. Ed Donaghue of AT&T invited people to the Hackathon at Surf on March 18-19. It will start Friday night, running through Saturday. 6 pm is dinner, 7 pm speakers, then team formation. You don’t have to come with a team, but can if you want to. RSVP to the event.

Three Demos

TOTAGO: Turn off This App and Go Outside, Adrian Laurenzi

Their tagline is “building technology to help people escape from technology”. The main focus of this app is helping people use public transportation to get outside and hike. Normally this is logistically challenging, but the app eliminates the need to go to multiple information sources, so you can more easily enjoy the outdoors.

There is only data in Seattle right now, but they are hoping to expand. Most of main functionality is on the Android app. There is an iOS app for your laptop.

This is a free app, but you can ask TATAGO staff to make personalized trips for you for $5 by filling out a survey. Then they will donate the trip to the app for everyone to use.

Seattle Brainstorm (Local Brainstorm), Mathias Burton

Local Brainstorm is building a platform to make really large civic plans interactive and engageable. The platform asks and provokes you to be involved with the plan. Mathias showed an example of a detailed but unengaging plan on ending homelessness, and discussed better ways to drill down in to the content of this plan. Local Brainstorm is an ideation space, giving people a space to have a voice. Available on GitHub.

Seattle Parks Complete, Zack Studnick

Do you know how many parks you’ve been to? Seattle Parks Complete helps you make a map that tracks your personal progress visiting the local parks. The map contains all city parks, and stores your visits in local storage based on you clicking on which ones you’ve been to. It will track the percentage of parks that you’ve been to. More on GitHub.

Seattle Parks and Recreation

Eric Asp and Chris Smith, from Dept of Parks and Rec., presented.

Some context

Parks and Rec is huge. It is 11% of the landbase of the City of Seattle. They have over 400 parks, plus 26 community centers and several pools.

Preparing Parks & Rec data for next week’s hackathon At the Mayor’s Open Data Policy signing on February 26th, Annika Hagelin demoed Seattle Parks Finder, an app based on Parks & Rec data. She mentioned some shortcomings in the data. Eric and Chris went back and started looking at the open datasets that they have, and agreed with her. Some are partial, and most are missing addresses. They started working on an inventory of datasets on data.seattle.gov. They’ve spent a lot of time scrubbing the data, and they’ve also been working with their GIS guru.

New data: community center visitors, Parks & Rec classes

Parks & Rec just published another dataset from their people counter program: the number of people entering their 26 community centers. This is a limited set, but there are over 3 million visitors a year total.

Eric is working on a dataset that is based on all of the classes that are offered through Parks and Recreation. It is an enormous dataset: there are literally hundreds and thousands of classes.

Chris and Eric asked what Open Seattle members would like from them. They have 30 different data sets, such as hiking trails. Mainly they’re guessing what they think people are interested in using, like locations of picnic tables. Here are some answers that came up.

- A reporting tool for broken equipment – like tennis court net that is torn. 
- A complete inventory of all equipment in every park – picnic tables, fire pits, shelters, tennis courts, and features – waterfront, city view, forest. Chris and Eric noted that some of that data is out there, most in GIS form, put that together as a maintenance dataset. It would be a little challenging to repurpose that for the public, but they can do that. 
- A dataset listing parks that have publicly available wifi. 
- Historical event data in GIS maps.  Chris and Eric said that Magnusen Park has a lot of historical data, Olmstead Park too. 
- As much Location/GIS data as possible. 

Q&A about Parks & Rec data

Question from Open Seattle: Are there any other things you’re thinking about about how you structure your data?

Parks & Rec is trying to figure out how to fit their datasets together better, and link between different datasets. They’re trying at least to give users the tools so they can make the links themselves.

Is there a way to join your tables?

Yes, there are ways to join. PMA_ID number is unique

Comment from Open Seattle: For the Hackathon, expose as much data as safely possible. Don’t worry about cleaning the data, but rather just make sure that it’s secure.

Question from Open Seattle: Does Parks and Rec have goals that they want accomplished?

This is something for the hackathon – Parks and Rec staff will be there with problems that they want solutions for. Mainly, they want apps to help people get out and use the parks in Seattle.

Question from Open Seattle: Is there a schedule or commitment to updating the datasets?

Parks and Rec is working on a schedule with the open data program. Someone suggested that the City track the metadata about what datasets are being most heavily used by the public, which would help them prioritize the best updating schedule.

Wider scope of City of Seattle Open Data Program

Some questions came up beyond the scope of just the Parks and Recreation program. For instance, can the city host basic apps back on their official site? Can they have an open source widget? Candace told the group that there are still really big, as-yet unanswered questions about how the city as a whole is integrating civic tech. Answers to these questions are emerging as the work continues.

One thing that is happening is that the City’s IT team is reviewing each dataset city-wide before it goes out. They will start informally enforcing some standards now; as they go along, those will become formal standards. The city will publish those standards once they are set.

Katherine Boyd is the owner of Halcyon Northwest, a Seattle-area consulting company specializing in data and public policy.