- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - As the morning sun danced off the Wabash River, West Lafayette parks director Jon Munn lifted a heavy backpack out of a truck bed. At the top of the tall pack, a camera swayed as he walked down the Mascouten Park boat ramp.

He stepped into a boat waiting at the water’s edge. The vessel slipped away from shore and began to putter north, toward the Sagamore Parkway bridge. Going out on the river gave his team a good vantage point to shoot images of downtown Lafayette for Google Street View.

Google Street View debuted in 2007, according to the company’s website. The project mounted 15-lens panoramic cameras on top of cars and recorded various routes for Google’s explorable world map. Then Google mounted that camera on a backpack and took Google Street View off road.

The West Lafayette Parks & Recreation Department spent late last week recording images of the city’s trails with Google Trekker. Once completed, the product would allow web visitors to click through the parks and rotate the point of view.

“We really got through our trails pretty quickly,” Munn said. “Because we used that ATV, things went pretty smoothly for us.”

In their extra time, the parks team shot some images of community art, like Discovery Park at Purdue University. The effort may help make West Lafayette’s parks more accessible to people unfamiliar with them, or for people with mobility difficulties.

“It’s a neat thing because people will be able to virtually walk the trails from their computers,” Munn said.

The Indiana Park and Recreation Association had similar goals for the project statewide, according to IPRA Executive Director Lisa Nye.

“We hoped to be able to get more people into parks,” Nye said.

IPRA facilitated the use of the Trekker equipment for various parks departments across Indiana. After the West Lafayette team finished with the gear, they passed it off to LaPorte County Parks Department.

Noblesville, South Bend, Goshen and more also used the tool last spring and this summer. The various parks departments have been posting images of their experience with Google Trekker using the Twitter hashtag #indianagoogletrekker.

“We are very excited for this opportunity and want the community to know about this project,” Janet Fawley, superintendent of West Lafayette parks department, said in a press release.

The project will continue in Indiana through September, by which time more than 30 parks departments will have used the equipment. After the project is done, it will take six to 12 months for all the images to be processed and formatted for presentation. A statewide announcement will go out once the images are ready for public viewing, Nye said.

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Source: (Lafayette) Journal & Courier, https://on.jconline.com/2b1wBmI

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Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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