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.

Launch: The @CivicWhitaker Anthology

the-civicwhitaker-anthology-coverToday marks the publication of The @CivicWhitaker Anthology: Three years of organizing, writing, and documenting in Chicago civic tech at the Smart Chicago Collaborative. Here’s my introduction:

Hiring Christopher Whitaker to work as a consultant for Smart Chicago was one of the best decisions I made here.

Together, we created a new job type— part documenter, part organizer, part evangelist, part original writer and thinker about an emerging subsector of the technology industry— civic tech.

Through our work together, he’s helped build one of the strongest civic hacking communities in the country, been an essential part of the growth of the largest network of civic tech volunteers in the world, helped make the first weekend in June a national day of civic hacking, worked with a dozen emerging companies and organizations to grow revenue and impact, and served as a critical thread in the national fabric of this important movement.

This book is a simple anthology of the best of his vast work.

Take a gander here or just download it for yourself.

The @CivicWhitaker Anthology from Smart Chicago Collaborative

If you appreciate this book, hit us up. Sharing is caring!

At LexHacks, Coders Make Case for Legal Reform


Kingsley Martin (standing) talks legalese with developers at WeWork Chicago.

This is the full report from Stephen Rynkiewicz on a National Day of Civic Hacking event, part of our Documentor Program.

The word heretofore hasn’t come up at a hackathon till now. But a roomful of developers are trying to define it, and thereby make the law simpler.

Lawyer Kingsley Martin sets them them straight. “Heretofore almost doesn’t have a meaning,” Martin says. “Many of these words you can just cross out and see if it changes the meaning, and in many cases it doesn’t.”

Developers gathered June 6 at Chicago’s WeWork, a shared office space. Early in the LexHacks event, they’re pressing Martin and other lawyers for resources that can help them win one or more of a half-dozen coding competitions.

Master of ceremonies Daniel W. Linna Jr., a Michigan State University law professor, thinks hackathons will attract advocates, project managers and data scientists as well as coders.

“I want lawyers to step up and embrace these technologies, so that we don’t have 80 percent of folks who have a need go without legal services,” explains Linna, an organizer of the Chicago Legal Innovation & Technology Meetup group. “We can do work with developers, designers, technologists, data analysts, lean thinkers to do that.”

Big law firms and tech startups already are automating trial discovery and other parts of the legal process. “Corporations were saying we can’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to manually review these mountains of electronically stored documents in litigation, or to conduct diligence in a large transaction,” he says. “That same technology has potential in so many other areas, predicting outcomes in cases.“

Continue reading

U.S. Chief Data Scientist visiting Chicago for National Day of Civic Hacking

dj442U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil will be making a trip to Chicago for National Day of Civic Hacking.

As Chief Data Scientist, DJ helps to shape policies and practices to help the U.S. remain a leader in technology and innovation, foster partnerships to help responsibly maximize the nation’s return on its investment in data, and help to recruit and retain the best minds in data science to join the federal government in serving the public.

DJ’s Chicago trip will start out at our Civic Tech Leader Training at Blue1647, and will try to make as many National Day of Civic Hacking events in Chicago during his visit. Before he comes to Chicago, he’ll also be visiting Code for America’s Michiana Brigade in South Bend, Indiana.

National Day of Civic Hacking is a nationwide event will bring together urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their city better. Together we’ll collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and the governments that serve them.

You can follow along on all the National Day of Civic Hacking events by following #hackforchange on Twitter. 

Hack for Change

Poster_hack-for-changeOn June 6, 2015, thousands of people from across the United States will come together for National Day of Civic Hacking. The event will bring together urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizers and anyone with the passion to make their city better. They will collaboratively build new solutions using publicly-released data, technology, and design processes to improve our communities and the governments that serve them. Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community.

Smart Chicago has been supporting National Day of Civic Hacking since the start. The first year helping to organize multiple events in Chicago. Last year, Smart Chicago also started to write training blogs for the website. We’re continuing the tradition this year with our longtime partner Code for America with providing additional training material.

As a city, Chicago is hosting multiple events all this week including our very own Organize! Training for new civic technology leaders. Below, we’ve broken down the list of events, training posts, subject primers, and who you should be following as the week kicks off.

Civic Tech Events in Chicago

CitySDK Launch at Chi Hack Night 

Hosted by Chi Hack Night – Braintree 6/2 – 6:00pm 

The Census Bureau has developed an open data software development kit (SDK)to enable a community, public, or private sector individuals and organizations to more easily extract value from Census data through user-friendly Application Program Interfaces (APIs). Through the SDK we are aiming to provide a user friendly “Toolbox” for civic hackers to connect local and national public data in order to bring forth innovative solutions for our communities. This national effort is being done to time with National Day of Civic Hacking.

The Census Bureau plans to launch the CitySDK on June 1st and present theCitySDK at the Chi Hack Night on June 2nd.

The Chi Hack Night (formerly known as the Open Gov Hack Night) is a free, weekly event in Chicago to build, share and learn about civic tech, or tools to create, support, or serve public good. It’s one of the largest weekly gatherings of civic innovators and takes place every Tuesday on the 8th floor of Merchandise Mart.

Code for America Fellowship Info Session

Hosted by Code for America at DevBootcamp  – 6/3 6:00-7:30pm 

Applications for the 2016 Code for America Fellowship are now open and due July 15, 2015. If you’re thinking about applying, but have questions, or you just want to find out more about the program, then this info session is for you.

Urban Sustainability Apps Competition 

Hosted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology – 6/5 -6:00pm

The Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) invites you to make Chicago’s neighborhoods smarter, greener, and more affordable at the 4th Annual Urban Sustainability Apps Competition.
Over the course of the event, community activists and app developers will work together to create workable prototypes of apps that make our neighborhoods more sustainable, both environmentally and economically.

We welcome participants from all corners of the city, whether you’re a local activist working to improve your neighborhood or a coding whiz looking to make a difference in the community.

Organize! Civic Tech Leader Training

Hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaborative – Blue1647 – 8:30am 6/6

For National Day of Civic Hacking, Smart Chicago will be hosting Civic Tech Leader Training to help leverage the power of technology to organize in their neighborhoods. The event will be held at Blue1647 on June 6th, 2015 and is designed to help train new civic tech leaders. We’ll be providing resource and training guides before the event.

Training will include FOIA training by the Better Government Association,community organizing training from the Southwest Organizing Project,Microsoft Excel training from Microsoft’s Adam Hecktman, data portal training by Josh Kalov, and more.

Adler National Day of Civic Hacking

Hosted by the Adler Planetarium – 9:00am 6/6 – 6/7

All Hack Days need problems to solve and those problems need domain experts – that’s where you come it! Civic Hack Day, as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, focuses on issues to improve our communities. As the problem owner you’ll give a two minute pitch at the beginning of Civic Hack Day to attract hackers interested in creating a technology-based solution to your problem.

Need some inspiration? Check out some of the projects from Civic Hack Day 2014. We also encourage you to share your ideas before the event on the Civic Hack Day Ideas Hackpad.

Civic Hack Day will kick off bright and early at 9:00 am on Saturday June 6th. and will finish at 12:00pm on Sunday June 7th. Problem Owners and Hackers are invited to spend the night at the Adler to hack the night away. You’ll be provided with plenty of food and caffeine to keep the momentum going! If you prefer sleep to hacking you can always go home and return on Sunday morning for the event wrap-up, project demos, and prizes.


Hosted by Michigan State University and OpenLegal – We Work Chicago – 6/6 – 6/7

Teams of lawyers, developers, designers, and other professionals will work together to develop software-based tools to solve legal problems over the weekend and compete for cash prizes.
Software is eating the legal industry. Join the hackathon accelerating the advancement of the legal industry.

Training Guides

Social Media Accounts to follow

  • @CodeforAmerica – Operation Partner for National Day of Civic Hacking
  • @ChiHackNight – Chi Hack Night will be hosting the US Census for the launch of CitySDK
  • @CivicWhitaker – Our consultant will be running our Organize! Civic Tech Leader Training
  • @CNT_Tweets – CNT will be hosting the Urban Sustainability Apps Challenge this weekend
  • @AdlerHacks – Hosting a general hackathon at the planetarium
  • @Shedd_aquarium – Hosting a hackathon focusing on fisheries
  •  @DJ44 – The US Chief Data Officer
  • @ChicagoCDO – Tom Schenk Jr, CDO of Chicago
  • @fishathon – Nationwide hackathon focusing on sustainable fishing