Search our website

From the blog

Trailheads, a Collaborative Approach

Author · Greg Bunce
Published · Mar 13, 2023
Last modified · May 2, 2024
Category · UGRC
Read time · 4 min

At UGRC, we serve up datasets from a vast array of sources. Some, like municipal boundaries, are created in-house. Others are pulled from a single steward, like the land ownership data maintained by SITLA. A large part of our work is aggregating datasets from multiple stewards into coherent, state-wide datasets. Roads, parcels, and address points all fall into this category.

However, there are some datasets that are so broad in their geographic scope and so dynamic in their content that even an aggregation strategy fails to keep up with their changes and fails to capture all the possible data sources.

Trailheads are great examples of this. They receive frequent updates and are governed by a variety of entities including cities and towns, counties, land preservation trusts, BLM, USFS, State Parks, and National Parks, to name a few. Because of this, it can be a challenge to keep this layer current in the SGID. But, what if we used a collaborative approach to manage this data?

OpenStreetMap and Collective Stewardship

At UGRC, we see OpenStreetMap, opens in a new tab (OSM) as an ideal platform for managing and maintaining datasets such as trails, trailheads, campgrounds, and a variety of other layers - because who better to steward this data than all of us?

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative platform for collectively editing data in real-time. In the case of trailheads, mapping enthusiasts can work side-by-side (so to speak) along the data stewards to keep the data up-to-date.

We already have an established OSM workflow for the Open Source Places SGID layer. This workflow allows us to source the data directly from OSM. Our goal is to eventually incorporate this collective stewardship model into as many suitable datasets as we can. For now, we have identified trailheads as the next suitable SGID layer for this collaborative editing model.

Collaborative Trailheads

The first step is to incorporate the existing SGID Trailheads, opens in a new tab into OSM. Essentially, we need to conflate –or merge– the two datasets to ensure we’re getting the best of both worlds.

To make this process fun (and easy), we created a simple map challenge, opens in a new tab and opened it up to the mapping community at large. So, if you’ve ever ventured out in Utah, it’s likely you’ll have something to contribute.

In the map challenge, there are essentially two scenarios:

  • In the first scenario, the trailhead is marked as new to OSM. In that case, you would review the information supplied and either add the missing trailhead to OSM or decline it with a valid reason.
  • In the second scenario, the trailhead is marked as not new to OSM. In this case, you’re working on a task to review (and possibly update) existing OSM data. The task is to review the feature and ensure that the most current information is in OSM.

Three short videos are linked below that walk you through the map challenge.

What’s Next for the Trailheads Dataset?

Once the map challenge is complete, we’ll then direct all maintenance for the trailheads layer to OSM.

At that point, we will source the SGID Trailheads layer from OSM much like we do with the SGID Open Source Places layer. This involves bringing the OSM data in-house, running a few validations and quality checks, and then serving it through the SGID so it can be consumed as a GIS layer.

The beauty of this stewardship model is that, collectively, we have the tools to keep the data current.

As we move forward with this model, we will also be working with the authoritative stewards to see how this project fits into similar initiatives that are already underway such as the OSM for Government, opens in a new tab and the Public Domain Map, opens in a new tab.

At UGRC, our ultimate goal is to serve relevant, high-quality data that can be used across platforms. By moving certain layers to OSM, we unlock their potential and open them up to the larger mapping community. With increased visibility they become better and more accessible to a variety of users and decision makers.

We hope you’ll join us in this effort.

Get Involved in the Map Challenge

If you’d like to contribute to the project, you can start by watching our three short how-to videos.

Follow Along with the Project

You can follow along with this project by visiting our collaborative trailheads GitHub repository, opens in a new tab or by reaching out to the staff from UGRC at | 801-538-3665.

Happy mapping!