Knight Foundation Grants $250,000 to Summit County for Park System

Software Coders to Put Summit County Trails and Waterways at Users’ Fingertips

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"Code for America comes to Akron" in Knight Blog

Akron, Ohio (February 20, 2013) – Hikers, bicyclists, canoeists and other outdoor enthusiasts will soon be “wired in” to the wide variety of trails and waterways that make up the extensive, regional trail network in, and around, Summit County, thanks to a partnership between Summit County, Code for America (CfA) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

A collaborative project is underway to create a dynamic and interactive web-based application that will give users the ability to navigate seamlessly through local trail information. The County of Summit was awarded a $250,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support the project.

Three CfA fellows, working with Summit County officials, will create a dynamic, interactive web-based application that will give users the ability to navigate seamlessly through local trail information using their computers, tablets or mobile phones. Knight Foundation provided Summit County with $250,000 to support the project.

Founded in 2009, the Code for America Fellowship Program provides an opportunity for the web generation to give back by embedding developers and designers in local government to explore new approaches to local challenges. However, this is the first time Code for America has partnered with a county or the national park system. Past CFA partnerships have all been with cities including: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Seattle. Other Code for America communities, for 2013, include Las Vegas, San Francisco and New York City.

“The Summit County partnership with Code for America is an amazing opportunity to open up access to one of Summit’s most valued assets, the park system,” said Jennifer Thomas, Knight Foundation program director for Akron. “The effort fits squarely into Knight’s interest in using technology to further engage communities.”

Summit County Executive Russell M. Pry’s Department of Community and Economic Development, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is partnering with the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County, the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS), and the City of Akron.

“Once again the Knight Foundation has shown its enduring commitment to the area,” said Executive Russell M. Pry, “The contributions of all of our partners will make this unique project a success.”

Collectively, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Metro Parks are responsible for more than 44,000 and more than 500 miles of trails in, and around, Summit County. More than 125 miles of those trails are located within Summit County alone, including 41 miles of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, half of which is managed by the Metro Parks. Metro Parks is also responsible for managing 14 developed parks with average annual attendance of more than 5.2 million visitors.

The Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, a nonprofit organization working on the development of the Ohio & Erie National Heritage Canalway in Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio, recently kicked-off phase two of the Summit County Trail Plan, designed as a planning tool for local communities and trail partners.

While the final product to be developed by the County, its partners and Code for America is yet to be seen, the thought behind it is simple: as communities increasingly become connected through regional trail systems, similar efforts must be made to connect resources to create a more informed and engaged community. Current technology requires users to navigate individually through numerous websites or maps, each with a different look and feel and varying levels of information.

“The Code for America team,” according to Executive Pry, “has the experience and talent to draw from these and other resources; to maximize the opportunity for enhanced community engagement and use of the regional trail system.”

The project, which runs from January though October, and includes a month-long residency, in February, by the three Code for America fellows.

About Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.

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Contacts

Patrick L. Bravo, M.P.A., J.D., Deputy Director, Department of Community & Economic Development, 330-643-7769, pbravo@summitoh.net

Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, Knight Foundation, media@knightfoundation.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.