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.

CUTGroup Collective & The Opportunity Project

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 3.52.32 PMSmart Chicago will be partnering with CUTGroup Collective members to help build CUTGroups in other cities and then conduct UX testing on websites and tools that use data that is part of the White House’s Opportunity Project initiative. “The Opportunity Project expands access to opportunity for all Americans by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders, to help them navigate information about the resources they need to thrive.”

Our role is to help organize these CUTGroup events around National Day of Civic Hacking, a national event that “brings together urbanists, civic hackers, government staff, developers, designers, community organizations and anyone with the passion to make their city better.” Smart Chicago has hosted National Day of Civic Hacking events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and has been a leader in the national planning.

This year, Smart Chicago is interested in creating lasting impact by focusing our time, efforts and resources on direct engagement with residents around technology through the CUTGroup model. All of this work will happen through the CUTGroup Collective, our effort to convene and strengthen organizations and institutions in cities to help establish new CUTGroups, and create a new community to share and learn from one another.

We will team up with developers who have built projects using opportunity data and match them with cities that are part of the CUTGroup Collective. We will then work together to design and implement CUTGroup testing in June as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking.

We are excited to do this work, and look forward to creating better technology for residents on a national level. If you are interested in the CUTGroup model and being part of the CUTGroup Collective, please let us know by filling out this form.

If you have worked on an website or tool that uses opportunity data, and want to participate in CUTGroup testing, please fill out this form.

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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!

Adler Hack for Change Event

alderThis is the full report on the Adler Civic Hack Day  from Nicole Cipri as part of our Documentor Program.

On June 6th, the Adler Planetarium joined venues across the world to host Civic Hack Day as part of National Day of Civic Hacking. National Day of Civic Hacking brings together community members, developers, programmers, and organizers to tackle tough problems and present practical solutions. Hackers come from a variety of backgrounds and bring diverse skill sets. Problem-solvers, makers, coders, tinkerers, anyone is invited to join the events.

Last year, National Day of Civic Hacking saw 123 events in 13 different countries, including at Adler Planetarium. Kelly Sutphin-Borden, an educator with the Adler who also handled logistics for the Hackathon, said this was the third year the Adler had participated in Civic Hack Day. Last year, groups created several seed projects, including an app to help link homeless LGBTQ youth to resources, and a searchable and simplified website explaining the CPS code of conduct to students and parents.

This year, six different people pitched issues facing Chicago. Among the proposals:

  • A website to help engage citizens on proposed legislative regulations.
  • A media campaign to protect Chicago birds.
  • An online archive for photographs by Vivian Maier, a Chicago-area street photographer, which would complement a brick-and-mortar archive of her works.
  • A more accessible and streamlined portal to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook
  • A data collection app for, which would collect cancer patients’ treatment histories and share them with researchers.
  • An app to help hospital patients with follow-up care after their discharge

The last of the problems presented, about helping discharged hospital patients, was proposed by Dr. Pam Khosla, an oncologist at Mount Sinai. She had not planned on participating in Civic Hack Day, but only on keeping her daughter company there for a few hours. She became inspired after listening to some of the other proposed issues.

She confessed that she’d heard about National Day of Civic Hacking first on NPR, and had been confused by the term. “I thought all hacking was bad,” she explained. “Who are we hacking? Why?”

Mount Sinai is a hospital on Chicago’s West Side, an area of the city that suffers from high rates of poverty. Many of Khosla’s patients have trouble navigating the labyrinthine process of longterm cancer treatment. Some of her patients have limited English, or low literacy, or no support network to help them. She envisioned an app or device in which a patient could input their treatment plans, and would then remind them to book transportation to their appointments, take their medication, or help explain procedures or processes. The point was to get better patient compliance, and thus, better quality of care.

After presenting the problems, Clint Tseng of Socrata offered a crash course in accessing open data provided by Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois. He also stayed on hand to help groups utilize this data for their projects.

Individuals broke up into teams to tackle each of these issues, usually starting with a brainstorming session. Problem Owners were interviewed about what kind of solutions would be practical, while everyone pitched in to come up with ideas for formats, funding possibilities, and organization. After a rough idea is drafted, the group had the next 24 hours to fine-tune their proposed solution, presenting it the following morning.

For those interested in seeing what the groups came up with can look through #hackforchange and #civichackday on Twitter.

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.“

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