- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - That figure on the trail is not a robot from outer space. Becky Barrick-Higgins wears a 360-degree Street View Trekker backpack camera, which is being used to photograph pathways in the Bloomington area, including the B-Line Trail.

As Julie Ramey rounded the trail into Sherwood Oaks Park early Tuesday afternoon, she saw paradise: bright sunlight, green grass and blue sky.

“It’s so colorful and so bright,” said Ramey, community relations manager for City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation. “Bloomington looks like utopia.”

In just six to 12 months, 3 billion people can see it, too. Images of the Jackson Creek Trail, B-Line Trail, Bloomington Rail Trail, Clear Creek Trail, Cascades Park Trail and Winslow Sports Park Trail will be available on Google Maps, thanks to a partnership between Google and the Indiana Park and Recreation Association.

On loan from Google, the Google Trekker camera equipment is making the rounds through 26 of the state’s parks departments to record 360-degree panoramic images of local trails. After nearly three months in northern Indiana, the Trekker has arrived in Bloomington.

Ramey is one of four city parks employees who volunteered to take the camera equipment, mounted as a backpack, down the city’s many trails throughout the week.

By the end of the day, she had finished trekking the B-Line, which she said was an enjoyable process despite the contraption’s lopsided 50-pound weight.

People would stop and say hello, cyclists would wave - but Ramey kept walking.

The Trekker snaps a photo every three seconds, so operators must maintain a steady pace. They also take an online course to learn how to manage the equipment, which includes 15 cameras, three sets of batteries and an Android controller that volunteers can use to pause the stream of pictures while they tie a shoe or take a break.

While walking the trails, Ramey visualized what others will soon be able to view online.

“The B-Line is an award-winning trail,” she said. “It’s been recognized around the state for its design, for its usability and its features. This is a great way to share that story. When other communities are building their trails, they can have a reference that gives not just two-dimensional, but panoramic views.”

At the end of the week, the parks department will send the photos to Google. After that, “they work their magic,” said Becky Barrick-Higgins, community events manager for Bloomington parks.

The images will be pieced together and processed as panoramic images to be viewed on “Street View” in Google Maps.

Julie Warren, director of tourism for Visit Bloomington, said the trails are among the city’s most popular assets. “Having that visual element when visitors are searching for those locations will be even more helpful when deciding to come here,” she said.

Barrick-Higgins, also president of the statewide park and recreation association, said the project will broaden access to local trails. “This is going to get you off the streets and onto the trails,” she said. “It’s a great way to highlight our trail system.”

The effort started when Google contacted the state association, which jumped at the chance to be the first state to catalogue its recreation facilities in the Google Maps database.

After local parks departments complete their treks in July, the equipment will travel to state parks.

The timing couldn’t be better, Barrick-Higgins said. “Indiana’s pretty excited that we could do it with the bicentennial.”

Ramey already has plans for further treks if Google chooses to extend the program. The team hopes to chart trails at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve and other remote locations. “On the more rugged trails, people don’t know if they have the capability,” she said. “This way, they’ll get a little preview.”

Ramey said she suspects this pilot program will inspire other state parks departments to borrow the equipment, too. “They might be pretty jealous right now,” she said.

___

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times, http://bit.ly/29aWFdm

___

Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide