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.


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.

Youth-Led Tech Career Days 2016

This year the Youth-Led Tech program developed targeted Career Days and a Career Development Day. These two programs were designed and integrated into the 6-week technology curriculum to introduce youth to careers both technical and non technical, as well as assist them in beginning to think more strategically and concretely about how to secure employment.

The Youth-Led curriculum is fluid enough to allow for the inclusion of speakers three times during the six-week program and a full day with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD. Students were visited by several local professionals who shared their stories at each site in the community they selected.

Our Roseland Community sites were visited by Jeffrey Beckham the owner of Black Box Creative during the first Career Day held July 7, 2016.

Special guest is here at Dr. Elzie Young Community Center

David Wilkins owner of Rally Cap and Divine Designs visited with our Austin students.

RallyCap at career Day

Jazelle Smith rounded out the first wave of entrepreneurs for the first Career Day.

Jazelle Career Day

The second and third Career Days were held July 21st and July 28th.

Our special guest was Dr. Philips West _D

The second component to the workforce readiness program, “How to Develop a Career Plan 101” with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD focused on “developing a personalized career plan and an overview of strategies of successful people.”  The workshop introduced students to the fundamentals of career planning, helped identify their interests and career goals and learn the trends of the fastest growing careers in America.


Smart Chicago Congratulates Envision Chicago Student Scholarship Winners

envision_logoOn July 20th, 4 Chicago public high school students were honored with a commemorative resolution at the Chicago City Council Meeting. These students were the winners of the Envision Chicago pilot program and each was awarded a  $1,000 scholarship for proposing improvements to city laws.

Envision Chicago, a project of  the OpenGov Foundation in collaboration with the City Clerk, challenged youth in participating schools — the Marine Leadership Academy, Chicago Excel Academy of Rosalind, Taft High School, and Lake View High School — to propose ways to change laws and improve lives in Chicago.

Read more about Envision Chicago winners in this OpenGov Foundation Press Release. Here is an excerpt:

It’s clear that when government meets students on their terms, and respects their voices, great things can happen. These students learned positive engagement practices on a user ­friendly website of the Chicago Municipal Code and 86 students dove in, discovered laws covering issues they cared about and shared their ideas.

Here is a glimpse at the social media from the day:

Smart Chicago was pleased to sponsor this pilot initiative along with Microsoft Chicago, Comcast, ComEd, and Haymarket. Congratulations to all the youth who participated in this civic project.

The Internet of Things in Action

This blog post is by Glynis Startz — Smart Chicago’s Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow. Glynis is assisting with Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement work, among other smart cities-focused projects. Glynis is a Master in Public Policy Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

glynis blog 1

Last month Smart Chicago wrote about civic engagement and the Internet of Things in Aberdeen, Scotland. Given the conversations & questions at the public meetings for the Array of Things project, we wanted to explore and share some examples of the Internet of Things (IoT) around the world.

IoT is defined as

“the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.”

Unless you work in technology or ‘Smart Cities’ it can be difficult to mentally translate the concept of the IoT to the reality. Imagining how the Internet of Things will affect the way your city is run, or how you interact with the government or your environment, is hard without some reference points. Here are a couple of ways the Internet of Things is currently being used, and how it has affected citizens and cities.

IoT in our backyard

big belly

If you live in Chicago (or in hundreds of other places), you’re throwing your trash into the IoT. Smart waste removal is intended to save money and keep things cleaner through better timed trash pickups. The solar powered Bigbelly trash compactors the city has used since 2011 are one of the most visible examples of the IoT in action. Bigbelly trash cans send information back to a hub about how full they are, and indicate when they need to be emptied. Philadelphia was an early adopter of the now ubiquitous cans, and reported savings of around $900,000 in the first year. (The program isn’t without its critics, of course, with reports of overflowing cans in some areas and the usual complaints about graffiti.)

IoT far, far away

Some cities have started weaving together multiple IoT applications, creating what is often referred to as a network of networks. Laura Adler has written an article on Barcelona’s network of networks on the Ash Center blog. The city has long had an extensive network of fiber optic cable which it has used “to build out individual IoT systems across urban services.” Now, the Internet of Things is embedded in energy consumption, waste management, and transportation.

There are two distinct types of IoT applications to explore in Barcelona: ones in which citizens interact directly with technology (either their own or the city’s), and ones in which technology facilitates some government process, improving it before citizens enter the equation.

The first type includes projects like interactive bus stops to help travelers plan their routes, and a public parking pay app. ApparkB lets residents use their smartphones to pay for public parking in the city, utilizing GPS to limit the number of people who have to use traditional parking meters. IoT applications in this mold often seem like first generation tests at this point. They conform more closely to what many people think of as ‘smart’, but at this point still seem like fun toys or conveniences instead of things being built into the architecture of governance.

Projects in Barcelona that are more tied into the city’s fundamental structure are the second type of IoT applications, which operate behind the scenes. Traffic lights interact with emergency vehicles, clearing their path to an incident, which decreases response times and traffic incidents. Barcelona also uses sensors in irrigation systems to save money and water across the city. Sensors monitor and control the output of water in public spaces by evaluating data on weather, rainwater, evaporation, and drainage.

Where do we go from here?

Waste management and irrigation might seem mundane, but the most functional examples of the IoT are often the least “sexy.” They’re the ones that let citizens keep living their lives the way they did before: smoothing the rough patches off daily actions or optimizing government actions to lower costs. IoT and Smart Cities are often sold as complete reinventions of The City as we know it, and the relatively unobtrusive applications we see today can be a letdown, but implementations that promise to entirely change the way residents live or move just haven’t manifested yet. From the unfinished Smart Cities in South Korea and China, to a 50 million dollar competition for redesigning transportation in a US city, transformative smart city projects are still possibly years or decades down the road.

It seems that the more transformative a technology promises to be, the more skeptical we as citizens should be. Balancing academic and practical goals within a single implementation is a difficult task. It’s much easier to imagine what researchers will do with granular ecosystem data than imagine how those granular ecosystem data will immediately impact residents. Benefits of academic research are diffuse and long term. Conversely, projects that provide short run cost savings for a city don’t necessarily create the type of data researchers need to answer academic questions. This doesn’t mean the IoT can’t create value in both of these categories, just that residents should be wary about promises of new technology being everything to everyone right away. There’s a great deal of potential value in smart city technology and the IoT, but the type or timing of that value may look very different depending on the project.

Chicago’s Mayor on the OpenGrid Launch

Seal_of_Chicago,_IllinoisThe Mayor’s Office of the City of Chicago published a press release about the launch of OpenGrid: Chicago Launches “Open Grid” to Help Residents Explore Their Neighborhoods. Here’s a snip:

Over the past four years, Chicago has led in the publishing of data, leveraging the City of Chicago’s Data Portal to make city data available to all residents. With OpenGrid, the City is making that data even more user-friendly. It allows residents to learn more about their communities, and encourages communities to add their own data and civic developers to enhance the capabilities of the app, all to engage and serve the city’s diverse neighborhoods. For example, a community group can use OpenGrid to determine when and where best to organize an event based on OpenGrid’s ability to show active building permits, street closures, and more.

OpenGrid is hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, an organization housed at the Chicago Community Trust dedicated to making technology available to all Chicago communities. The website and app are available today at

Smart Chicago hosts this application and we also created the code that drives all the data into the system. More here.