The Allegheny Institute is happy to offer introductory advice and consultation to communities interested in developing their own digital trails. While the project goal is to add value to existing natural and cultural/historic assets in rural communities, it is also important that communities possess the capacity to implement such a project. We ask you to consider the following indicators of capacity:
Higher education partnerships. Universities and similar institutions are important partners in terms of ensuring quality control in the research process. In turn, students gain tangible, real-world experience in developing maps that serve community interests. Partnerships can range from computer programming classes adding to the app’s open source software to history classes conducting archival research to generate data content for GPS points. Communities do not necessarily need a higher education institution to co-develop a mapping project, but it is a helpful indicator of short- and longer-term capacity.
Storage space for the digital maps. Mapping requires some form of partnership with a local, non-profit or governmental agency willing to host the data created through the mapping process. In our pilot program in Smethport, PA, the county-level tourism authority agreed to host the content. Locally sourcing your data ensures local editorial control over content and wider community participation.
Broad community partnerships. In addition to educational and storage partnerships, creating a robust digital map requires input from a wide array of stakeholders. These might include local chambers of commerce, other local business interests, historical and cultural associations, youth clubs, environmental and outdoors associations, libraries, local government and school boards, individual teachers, and/or county-level economic development officials.
Organizational plans for diversity. Mapping partnerships should be organized to facilitate the representation of diversity in terms of project ownership and data content. In addition, a large portion of any trail mapping strategy should be accessible for persons of all levels of physical ability.