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.

National Day 2015 Round-up

logoLast week was a busy week for civic technologists in Chicago with several events being held throughout the city as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking. We’ve provided a quick roundup of everything that happened last week as well as some thoughts to next steps.

CitySDK Launch at Chi Hack Night


The Census Bureau launched their open data software development kit (SDK) at Chi Hack Night on Tuesday.  They also helped to break the current attendance record with 124 people coming in to hear Presidential Innovation Fellow Jeff Miesel demo the CitySDK. (You can catch the full demo here and the meeting notes for the event here.)

Steve Vance has already updated his Cityscape app to take advantage of the new CitySDK. He’s created a webpage as part of Chicago Cityscape that gets the median home value and median rent for the Census tract containing your GPS-based location.

You can get more updates on the CitySDK project by following them on Twitter.

Urban Sustainability Apps Competition 

On Friday, the Center for Neighborhood Technologies kicked off the weekend with the Urban Sustainability Apps Competition. The event was hosted by Stephen Philpott and took place over the entire weekend.

In attendance at the event was the CTO for the US Census Bureau Avi Bender as well as the City SDK team. The competition kicked off with some advice from Eve Tulbert – Founder of FreedomGames.

Eve’s group didn’t win the CNT Apps competition, but through the event they launched their company and now have paying customers. This year’s winner was Purshable – and app that helps grocery stores sell produce that is about to expire. You can get the full details on the event from the CNT blog. 

Organize! Civic Tech Leader Training

For Civic Tech Leader Training, we wanted to provide training for people already active in their communities – but wanted to learn more about the technology side of things.

We kicked off with David McDowell from the Southwest Organizing Project who gave us an orientation into community organizing. From there, we learned about the ins-and-outs for FOIA from Matt Topic of the Better Government Association. Before we got into the tech portion of our training, we had a brainstorming session about what problems we should be focusing on in the city and how we could leverage technology to address them. We took collaborative notes during the day so that you can see all of the ideas that we generated. Our brainstorming session was later joined by US Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil who also gave some short remarks and answered questions from the audience. In the afternoon, our own Josh Kalov taught about data portals and Microsoft’s Adam Hecktman gave a class on how to use Excel to analyze open data.

We also spoke about how to use tech tools and shared some tips on social media. To cap off the day, Claire Micklin from talked about how to run a hack night project.

Adler National Day of Civic Hacking

To cover the Adler National Day of Civic Hacking event, we sent our Documentor Nicole Cipri to the Adler event. Here’s an excerpt her dispatch:

On June 6th, the Adler Planetarium joined venues across the world to host Civic Hack Day. Organized by Hack For Change, Civic Hack Day 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, Hack For Change 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 Hack For Change first on WBEZ, 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.


To cover LexHacks, we sent Stephen Rynkiewicz to cover the legal hackathon that happened at WeWorkChicago. Here’s an excerpt from his dispatch:
At LexHacks, developers, designers, lawyers, lean thinkers, project managers, data analysts and other professionals were challenged to work together to create solutions that improve the efficiency and delivery of legal services, as well as the access to legal services.
“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 Daniel 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.” Lisa Colpoys, executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online, organized one of two crowdfunded contests. “Our mission really is to break down the law, make it simple enough so people who can’t afford a lawyer can handle their legal problems,” Colpoys says. “This system is scary. It’s complicated. If people want to go to court on their own, they typically don’t do very well, at least without education and some support,” Colpoys says. “Our challenge is to create some sort of a tool for people to evaluate whether it’s worth it to pursue some case or claim, or defend their case or claim.“
Jon Pasky first organized legal hackathons to recruit developers to resolve a complaint he heard from tech startup founders. “They want to talk to their lawyer,” Pasky says, “but people I found in the small business and startup side don’t, because they’re afraid of the bills.”

With Ric Gruber, who worked his way through law school as a developer, Pasky launched Openlegal, the flat-fee website that recruits clients for their law office. “Every time we automate part of the process, we’re able to hire more lawyers instead of more admin staff,” Gruber says. “We’re saving our clients 30 to 50 percent because we’ve cut administrative waste.”

Dan O’Neil on WBEZ re: the Limits of Open Data

WBEZ LogoOn Monday, Smart Chicago Executive Director Dan O’Neil went on WBEZ’s Tech Shift to talk about what the Homan Square story says about open data in Chicago.

Dan wrote a blog post on both the Smart Chicago blog and his own personal blog with his thoughts on the issue.

Dan spoke about how he’s been a big fan of the open data policy, but that we’ve run right against the limits of open data. Some things are just not publishable, and data that does get published has limited utility. The crime incident data, for instance, has always been limited and the city’s always been upfront about it. (More here.)

Dan also spoke about how the Open Data movement has had the general idea that if we release data, steps 2-10 (the civic innovation) will occur all on it’s own and how this may not be true.

Dan stated that we can’t have a data-first solution for civic tech. We have to start with people and with what they know.

Boohood also asked about the recent discovery of missing crime data on the data portal that was uncovered by the Crime in Wrigleyville and Boystown blog.  Dan responded by stating that the people who ran the blog did a great service – they used the portal to find a specific case – spoke out about it – and resulted in more data being added.

Here’s the whole interview:

Cook County Burial Locations Featured on WBEZ

On October 27, Cook County Chief Medical Examiner was on WBEZ’s Afternoon Shift talking about their burial data. 

The data set  lists the final disposition sites of the indigents buried by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. Currently, there are two places where this happens. Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery (which provides Latitude and Longitude coordinates for burials) and Mount Olivet (which provides Grave, Lot, and Block locations.)


The data set provides the name, age, sex, race, date of death, and case number for each person buried by Cook County.

Our consultant, Josh Kalov worked with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office to help set up the tables for the data set. He then educated the Medical Examiner’s office on how to upload data to the portal and made the first initial upload.

You can listen to the WBEZ story here.