April 7, 2014

NPS Program Helps Reimagine Urban Trails in Los Angeles

by Patrick Johnston from National Park Service

On March 10, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell caught a sneak peek of a new interactive mobile website being developed by a dynamic group of community partners who are reimagining urban trails in Los Angeles. Joined by a dozen students from nearby Franklin High School who worked on the project, Secretary Jewell utilized the mobile website to guide her on a 1-mile walking tour from the historic birthplace of Los Angeles at El Pueblo to the Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The walking tour began at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s new outreach office located in the heart of El Pueblo, providing an opportunity for Secretary Jewell and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to see how the National Park Service is enhancing its commitment to serving the diverse communities of urban LA.

From there, directional arrows and mileage counters on the mobile website navigated the group to various “hotspots” where site-specific historic images and interpretive information about important cultural landmarks were displayed. In some spots, the website challenged participants to climb a flight of stairs nearby or use an open plaza to complete a series of yoga stretches, building additional physical activity with discrete health benefits into the user’s experience.

The urban trails project began in 2011 when staff from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program engaged a group of 60 students from Franklin High School’s transportation academy to develop ideas for connecting the community to local urban park spaces in Los Angeles. The students developed a concept for a network of urban trails that would link historic neighborhoods, cultural sites, and nearby natural resources to a centralized “community trailhead” located at the 32-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park (LASHP).

The students’ work inspired local partners from the City of Los Angeles’ Planning Department, California State Parks, the California Endowment, UCLA’s Interpretive Media Lab, and the National Park Service to explore how this trail network could be formalized. Ultimately, the California Endowment provided funding for the development of a pilot “LASHP Trails” mobile website to be released publicly in April 2014.

Unique from some other digital trail applications, the LASHP Trails mobile website has been designed as a tool of discovery, not just wayfinding. It requires you to be in a physical location to “unlock” content, emphasizing the importance of actually going out to experience and explore a place in person. This framework was critical to all partners involved, where the express intent had been to develop a model tool that utilizes the flexibility and interactivity of digital media to promote exploration and connection to local urban park spaces.

The urban trails project supports several National Park Service Call to Action priorities—from engaging youth, to promoting healthy recreation, to enhancing access to close-to-home outdoor spaces—all within the context of one of the largest and most dense urban settings in the country.

1 Comment

  1. Fantastic! We are trying to do the same type of system in our city. New Bedford MA

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