Author Archive

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

The last post (Where are the bike paths? Where are the Parks?) briefly touched on the unprecedented opportunity that represents and one of the general challenges that exists. Today we will jump right into the details, simply because time is of the essence and there are many exciting things occurring right now. These are things that you can be involved in today.


One of the greatest challenges to develop a recreation information clearinghouse is collecting information from all the recreation providers about their resources. Fortunately, one thing was easy to sort out, it needed to be geographic based. That way we could map it, because as we all know – a picture is worth 1,000 words. We knew that the information needed to be geographically rooted.


One of the easiest ways to collect geographic information is digitally, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). With GIS you can create electronic maps, layer them, and perform all kinds of in depth analysis. It also has a huge plus as a standard communication format, because many government agencies already use it.


Wait, why are we concentrating on government agencies? They came to the top of the list because they provide so many resources and are reasonably similar. Many of them in South Central Kansas are also tied into the Visioneeting Wichita initiative, so they’re easier to contact.


So we know that we are targeting government agencies first (we will approach the private recreation providers soon afterwards), and that are going to use GIS as a standard for communicating the information. However, we still need to nail down how we are going to organize the GIS information, essentially the question became what language and dialect will we use to make sure it can be aggregated.


Fortunately, we are following in the footsteps of one awesome State-wide initiative and we are moving parallel to a national initiative that did and are working out a GIS standard for sharing recreational resources information. The State initiative is the Kansas RecFinder and can be found at the following website The national initiative is a GIS attributes standards committee that is being facilitated by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The two initiatives have provided us with a wealth of information and hopefully we’ve been able to provide them with the same. I will discuss both of these initiatives in depth in future blog posts. However, we need to jump into the NRPA stuff today because of the ability for you to get involved.


I’ve been working with the NRPA GIS attributes technical committee on and off for at least six months. It’s been an interesting project involving folks from all over the country. The group has developed draft standards for GIS information that they hope can be used by organizations throughout the country. The standards help identify what specific names to assign to resources and what general categories they belong in.


The awesome thing about the NRPA attributes is that the NRPA allow opportunities for the general public to participate by submitting comments. You can find the draft attributes and comment forms on the following website.


For more background information about the NRPA initiative check out the website below.


I would encourage everyone to take a quick look at them, and to complete a comment form. Even if you think they don’t need any edits, I know that it would really help to hear your thoughts. I also need to give a quick shout out to Meredith, who has had a time of keeping us all organized. She’s done a great job of herding cats and hopefully will get a long vacation after this project is completed ha.


Next time we’ll discuss the Kansas RecFinder and the maestro Professor Sid Stevens. 


Saturday, May 14th, 2011

If that’s what you think, you’re not alone. A 2007 survey of Wichita residents found that one of the primary reasons why Wichita residents don’t use the Wichita bike paths / pathways system are because they can’t find them. Yes, there were other reasons why pathways aren’t used (view the Wichita PROS Plan survey). However, for nearly 17 percent of the survey respondents it came down to something relatively inexpensive. It wasn’t that the community didn’t make the huge investment to construct the infrastructure, it came down to information.


This website,, is an awesome tool that will help to ensure that people have access to the information they need. The website is a radical solution and one that requires radical cooperation to make it all work. Within Kansas there are many public and private providers of recreation resources. Our challenge is to collect and standardize that information.


This blog will provide you with information about the adventures involved with this humongous challenge. You’ll find out how we are working with communities all over Kansas to provide you with the information you need to go play! Stay tuned for updates and how you can get involved.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

The great thing about recreation is that depending on how you define it, recreation can mean a lot of different things and a lot of different sports. That wonderful variety can present a challenge when you try to inventory all of the physical resources that are commonly considered recreational resources. The data behind the website is generally split into three formats of GIS data: polygons, points, and lines. The type of format used depends on the resource.

Parks are represented in the GIS data as polygons. Polygons are the best way to show parks because they represent the boundaries of the site and can include resources located within them. In can get a little tricky if parks cross political boundaries, or if two parks are located adjacent to each other (think of Pawnee Prairie Park and Tex Consolver Golf Course in Wichita).

Points GIS data represents the recreation resources (i.e. playgrounds, fields, picnic tables, etc.). the points data is utilized for this category of features because the features vary in size from very small to very large and it would be time consuming to draw the boundaries of each one out. The points work well to illustrate single items out in the field in a quick and easy format.

Trails and paths are represented in the GIS data as lines. The line data can be broken up into segments that have individual attributes (i.e. type of material, width, etc.). This is how the website is able to display multiple types of trails.

One of the difficulties that came to light as the team was working with the data was the ability to represent the nearest access to trails on a map. The problem was that sometimes the nearest way to a path is down a cliff or across a busy roadway. The team came up with the solution of plotting access points for trails using the point data. This way, the distances to trails are accurately represented on the map. This feature is not available yet, but the team is working on it – so keep an eye open for those updates.

In the next post we can take a look at the challenges behind the use descriptions.

Friday, May 29th, 2009

This is the question that we need to answer as a group so that we can effectively track the resources of multiple communities and organizations. Fortunately, we are following in the footsteps of some great initiatives (see last week’s post). One of the most impressive initiatives that also relates to us geographically is the Kansas RecFinder website (


The Kansas RecFinder website was developed by Dr. Sid Stevens from Kansas State University. With funding from the Kansas Sunflower Foundation (also a financial contributor to the website) Dr. Stevens undertook the huge task of surveying organizations throughout Kansas to inventory their resources. Once he had that information, then he organized it into a GIS database and coordinated with the Kansas Data Access and Support Center (DASC).


The Kansas RecFinder was and is a huge leap forward for recreation resources in Kansas. We have been in contact with Dr. Stevens and Ms. Hallberg at the DASC about the Kansas RecFinder and We are very hopeful that we can coordinate the GIS information that underlies each system, to make them compatible. By making them compatible, we can share the information between the systems and build upon the system that Dr. Stevens has created. The GoPlayKansas website will add more interactive functions, allowing participants to utilize the data and develop data in a way that enhances and builds on the data that the website initially publishes.


The NRPA GIS standards, being developed right now, might be one method of coordinating the Kansas Rec Finder and GIS information. There are some challenges to this, In the next post we can start to explore how the GIS data for is currently sorted and some of the challenges with coordinating it with the KansasRecFinder or NRPA standards.