Cook County Forest Preserves Map

Where can I bring my dog? How do I access that trail? Where can I go cross country skiing? Where can I have that big party? The Forest Preserves of Cook County in partnership with Smart Chicago has developed the Forest Preserves of Cook County interactive map. The Cook County Forest Preserves Map shows location and information about trails, points of interest, activities, and groves.

Some special features of interest:

  • Uses GPS to find trails, points of interest, and activities near you and get directions.
  • Users can search by activity, location name, city, and zip code.
  • The page URL updates as you search or view location details. You can bookmark all the best places to fly model airplanes or share with friends that the picnic is at Schiller Woods-East. Because the page URL updates, the browser back and forward buttons can be used to go to the last search or view.
  • Mobile friendly: The map is designed for both desktop and mobile use. On a mobile device, a user can toggle between list and map views.
  • Search and filtering is local making it more reliable out in the field with an inconsistent mobile connection.

On 10/30/17,  we rolled out the alerts functionality. The map will now show any alerts on the map detail panel. There is also a list version that is embedded on the Forest Preserves website under “Construction, Closures & Other Work“.

The web application is built on two pieces of source code: Trailsy and Trailsy Server, both pioneered by Code for America. All of the data used to power the site is open for all and can be followed on the project’s GitHub page. I am a long-time Smart Chicago Consultant and the main developer on the project who is also working closing with Cook County’s Department of Technology to tackle open data processes and policies countywide. This project was made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Healthy Hotspot initiative led by the Cook County Department of Public Health. Learn more at

So what can you do at the Cook County Forest Preserves? Here are 5 suggestions:

  1. Did you know that you can play Disc Golf at Cook County Forest Preserves Rolling Knolls Disc Golf Course in Elgin?
  2. Hike 16 miles through the North Branch Trail System Red Paved Trail.
  3. Check out the Kid’s Corner and Butterfly Garden at Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland.
  4. Go on a Treetop Adventure and Zip Line at Bemis Woods.
  5. Rent a boat at the Busse Lake Boating Center and explore Busse Lake.

Let us know what you think! Tweet to us @smartchicago and to me @joshkalov.

Kyla Williams Co-Presents Today at Philanthropy Ohio’s Annual Conference

Today, Leon Wilson, CIO of the Cleveland Foundation, and I will co-present at the Philanthropy Ohio’s annual conference with a theme this year of “Philanthropy Forward” and a concentrated discussion on Digital Civic Engagement & Community-Centered Design. Philanthropy Forward ’17 is set to inform practices, strategies and goals and connect peers in the field of philanthropy. The conference will also focus on the future of philanthropy with insight into the current state of the sector – fueled by recent research – addressing transitions, change and the leadership pipeline. With several networking and roundtable discussions, attendees will discover how to shift failures to successes, effectively fund advocacy and civic engagement and hear from  exceptional leaders across the state and country.

Leon and I also presented in April 2017 at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference “Leading Together” as part of a panel discussion with: Aaron Deacon, Managing Director, Kansas City Digital Drive; Elizabeth Reynoso, Assistant Director of Public Sector Innovation, Living Cities; and Lilly Weinberg, Program Director/Community Foundations, John S. & James L. Knight Foundation on “Supporting Civic Engagement through Technology and Community-Centered Design”. After finishing that presentation we decided more collaborative sharing between cities was necessary and lead to this opportunity at Philanthropy Ohio.

Community building in the digital era requires providing a space for the public sector and local communities to interact. Building solutions with peoplenot just for them – by using community-centered design can have profound social impact. This has been central to Smart Chicago’s work and has lead to the building of processes, products, services, and other lightweight tech solutions that have been helpful.

Our presentation today has the learning objectives:

  • To introduce different models developed in communities to address civic engagement digitally
  • To encourage the consideration of embedding support for digital civic engagement into existing grantmaking & advancement efforts

You can follow the happenings of the conference on Twitter @PhilanthropyOH and @SmartChgoKyla or by using the hashtag #PhilFWD17.


Good News!!! The Smart Chicago team is moving and now will be co-located with the City Digital Team at UI Labs. As such, our individual emails will be changing to:

Kyla Williams 

Sonja Marziano

Denise Linn     

Leslie Durr       

Our new mailing address is 1415 N. Cherry Avenue Chicago, IL 60642 and general phone number is 312.281.6900.

Please check our website at or follow us on twitter @smartchicago for more updates.

We appreciate your patience during this time of transition.

Women in Tech Speakers Series

Co-authored by Kyla Williams and Derek Eder

Smart Chicago Collaborative and Chi Hack Night have teamed up to create a speaking series in celebration of Women’s History Month in an effort to elevate the talented, diverse women in civic-driven technology across Chicago.

Too often in the tech space we hear about what people do or what product they have made and less about their personal narratives. In this series, we encourage our speakers to share their stories as a transformative learning and inspirational opportunity.

Additionally, we acknowledge the lack of diversity in the civic tech community and believe that becoming more community-based with easier opportunities for engagement and gaining experience will spurn interest in the field and potentially serve as an economic solution to fill technology vacancies in Chicago.

This partnership is especially timely considering Smart Chicago is currently an all women team fighting the good fight on behalf of civic technology and engagement and Chi Hack Night has set a priority area of focus on diversifying its thriving developer community.

The Women in Tech Speakers Series will coincide with the four weekly Chi Hack Night events that occur on Tuesdays at Braintree in Merchandise Mart for the month of March.

Additionally, two community events will be held on Wednesday, March 29th in Homan Square and Thursday March 30th at the DuSable Museum.

It’s important to ensure we are not just highlighting women in technology and their respective stories, but also their roles within the field. Further, if we are going to influence a paradigm shift and draw more interest into the field, demystifying roles and types of opportunities is necessary. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue this partnership and related activities on an ongoing basis, as this is important work.

Event #1 – March 7th, 6pm

The Speaker Series kicks off tonight March 7th with special guest Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

222 W Merchandise Mart Plz, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654

RSVP – sold out!

Event #2 – March 14th, 6pm

Next week will feature Sandee Kastrul, president and co-founder of i.c.stars, an innovative nonprofit leadership and technology training program founded in 1999 to prepare inner-city adults for technology careers and community leadership.

222 W Merchandise Mart Plz,8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654


Event #3 – March 21st, 6pm

Our third event will feature Melissa Pierce, Director of “Born with Curiosity: The Story of Grace Murray Hopper”, an independent documentary about Grace Hopper, who in 1944, was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language.

222 W Merchandise Mart Plz,8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654


Event #4 – March 28th

On Tuesday, March 28th, we will welcome Robin Robinson, a longtime Chicago television news anchor turned special advisor on community affairs for the Chicago Police Department. In her talk, Robin will discuss the role she has taken on and the work needed to rebuild trust between the Chicago Police Department and the communities it serves. We also welcome the Chicago Federation for Women as they share their Talk It Out initiative, a weeklong conversation series designed to spark understanding about gender bias and the ways it affects women and men.

222 W Merchandise Mart Plz, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654


Event #5 – Creators & Founders: Women in Civic Tech

Wednesday, March 29th we will welcome a panel of creators and founders, with speakers Allyson Scrutchens of Forward Planning and Dima Elissa of VisMed-3D.              

Homan Square Community Center
3517 W. Arthington Street
Chicago, IL 60624


Event #6 – Amplifiers of Community Voice: Women in Civic Tech

Thursday March 30th  we will welcome a panel of amplifiers of community voice with speakers Andrea Hart of City Bureau, Aviva Rosman of Ballot Ready, and Tiana Epps-Johnson of Center for Tech and Civic Life.

DuSable Museum-Auditorium
740 East 56th Place
Chicago, IL 60637


We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Women’s History Month and Chicago’s unique and amazing civic technology community. Here’s to Women’s History Month and fruitful partnerships!


Transitions at Smart Chicago

As of today, Friday, May 27, 2016, I am leaving my position as Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative.

Kyla Williams Kyla Williams has been appointed Interim Executive Director. She has been with the organization since December 2011. She is a wellspring of knowledge and has been a key person in nearly every program we run. You can contact Kyla at

The founding partners of Smart Chicago— the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the City of Chicago, and The Chicago Community Trust— are devoted to the organization and are working to launch the search for a new Executive Director. Stay tuned to for more on that.

While Kyla is responsible for all finances, programs, and personnel, here’s a handy contact list for many existing Smart Chicago projects:

Sonja Marziano,

Denise Linn

Leslie Durr

And Kyla retains or inherits responsibility for the following projects:

Please contact Kyla Williams at with any questions, comments and concerns.

On a personal note, I look forward to keeping up with you— find me over here on Twitter and see my writing here. Otherwise, I greatly look forward to seeing the great work of Smart Chicago continue!

Love, Daniel X. O’Neil & the Smart Chicago Collaborative


Reporting Back on City Bureau’s Open House

City Bureau people in public meeting

An attendee exploring one of City Bureau’s articles in front of orange-capped Editorial Director, Darryl Holliday

On Wednesday, January 27th, our partner City Bureau hosted their first open house at Experimental Station, a curious wing-shaped building in Woodlawn, Chicago. A number of south-side focused grass-roots organizations call Experimental Station home, including 61st street Famers Market, Blackstone Bikes, Link Up Illinois, and South Side Weekly.

Experimental Station

Southside Weekly’s workroom in Experimental Station

City Bureau is a community newsroom that aims to divest from the traditional journalism model and regenerate civic media. The integral part of that is placing the narratives of the west and south sides back into the hands of its most overlooked residents– the youth.

City Bureau operates with a level-based model where reporters are placed into three tracks. Level three is the most experienced track of reporters in which the journalists work in the field and also act as mentors to the level one reporters. Level one reporters are the least experienced, but are also the youth that have the most intimate stake in the action in their own neighborhoods.

“This training [rubric] fosters social and emotional learning in conjunction with trauma training,” explained Educational Director, Andrea Hart. She designs and writes curriculum for the level one program. She further explained that “these people, because of historically racist/classist policies, are experiencing complex trauma and therefore it is important to contextualize curriculum accordingly. Trauma informed education doesn’t harm anyone. It’s a benefit to all whether or not they have gone through traumatic experiences.” The training and mentorship that the youth receive operate within this framework.

City Bureau

Level 3 reporter, Xavi, speaking to an attendee

They were joined on Wednesday by their partners Illinois Humanities and the Invisible Institute.

Read more on City Bureau’s Police Accountability highlight in the Reporting Back series with Illinois Humanities here.

The Invisible Institute was there showcasing the Citizen’s Police Data Project, a digital map which showcases a database of 56,000 misconduct complaint records for more than 85,000 Chicago police officers.

citizens police data project

Screenshot of

Chaclyn Hunt, head of the Youth / Police project at the Invisible Institute explained the Citizens Police Data project. Users of this tool may search by officer name and badge number. An interesting catch that they learned while collecting this data, is that badge numbers are recycled, so a search of a single number may come up with the compiled complaints of three different officers. To assure accurate information, names and numbers must be cross checked.


Chaclyn Hunt explaining the Citizens Police Data Project to an attendee

Some search categories of this tool include: Bribery/Official Corruption, Verbal Abuse, Drug / Alcohol Abuse, Illegal Search, and dozens more. One may search by outcome i.e. allegations, sustained, or unsustained and also by race and gender.

If you are abreast of the current unconscionably racist climate in Chicago, it is unsurprising that a black person is twice as likely to file a complaint against the a police officer, but half as likely to have the complaint addressed. Additionally, black police officers are twice as likely to be punished versus their white counterparts.

Read more on the work of the Invisible Institute here.

Editorial Director, Darryl Holliday

Editorial Director, Darryl Holliday

For more on City Bureau follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or follow their blog.