28 June 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Vancouver Parks Finder

For a site focused on the Halton Region this blog has way too many posts about Vancouver. That’s because both the city & the province have such active Open Data / Open Gov initiatives. There’s a constant stream of new datasets being released by the City of Vancouver, and the City staff actively participates in local Open Data communities.

One of the latest datasets made open – Vancouver Parks Listing – peaked my interest, because of how useful it is for anyone looking for just the right park with just the right facilities for a hike, scenic strolls, a picnic or a friendly game of tennis.

Because the raw data on Vancouver parks was made open, anyone — from professional application developers, to “amature” coders like myself, to even non-technical users — can now visualize and build something useful like maps, parks or feature searches. That is exactly what I put together in just a couple of nights’ worth of work:

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VanPark (Vancouver Park Finder) is based on the SIMILE Exhibit project, which makes it easy to build visualizations & data ‘browsers’ with faceted searches. It’s particularly useful for when you’re trying to "find" a particular record based on criteria, which applies beautifully to locating a park based on its features, such as location/neighborhood, size of parks, washroom locations & hours, or special features such as a seawall.

One small twist in this project was writing code to load the data at run-time dynamically via a JSON feed from an OGDI powered catalogue; the data in the catalogue is the same as the XLS/CSVs on the City’s catalogue – but can be programmatically accessed & queried via API’s (JSON, oData, etc.) I make the code available as Open Source with Exhibit code already available as OSS under the BSD License.

This means that this small project is highly customizable and easy to adapt for any region / city… all that our regional and municipal governments need to do is to publish the data on our parks as "open data”. This data in the right hands can then power park finders, interactive applications, mobile apps and bring a lot more value to us as citizens. After all, this information already exists in various map and web-pages for our region of Halton and our towns Burlington, Milton, etc…. it just needs to be set free!

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