See the article below by Maggie Cawley, Jess Beutler, and Diane Fritz from OpenStreetMap summarizing their efforts to support responsible mapping of trails.
Public open spaces in the United States continue to see unprecedented levels of visitation coinciding with an uptick in the use of navigation apps by people exploring new areas. Increased visitation has led to more safety incidents, environmental resource damage, and a strain on land management agencies and organizations. The popularity of outdoor navigation apps has overwhelmed agency-produced maps showing authorized trails. Because many of the most popular outdoor apps use OpenStreetMap (OSM) data to inform their maps, OpenStreetMap US (OSM US), a national nonprofit organization, formed the Trails Working Group in December 2021 to address the environmental and safety issues by improving the data detail associated with trails, such as public access and trail ownership. Members of the working group include representatives from the OSM US volunteer mapping community; land management agencies including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and US Geological Survey; and companies that develop navigational apps, including AllTrails and Gaia GPS.
Over the past year, the OSM US Trails Working Group has successfully:
Convened stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of challenges and needs;
Created data schema (also known as tagging for OSM users) and rendering guidelines for land managers, app developers, and OSM community members;
Piloted the data schema in varied trail systems in Washington state to see how the data schema affects the rendering of trails on public maps. View results in this article.
The next phase of the Trails Stewardship Initiative will feature a second pilot that expands to include additional geographic areas and stakeholder groups, and planning for the launch of a National Trail Mapping Campaign. We would love to involve more local land managers, indigenous perspectives, outdoor clubs, local mappers and trail-goers as this project moves forward. Interested stakeholders are invited to gather in June at the upcoming State of the Map US conference in Richmond, VA. Join us!
You can learn more about this work and sign up to get involved on the OpenStreetMap US website at openstreetmap.us/trails.