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A non-profit’s journey to guiding Americans across trails with Google Maps Platform

February 6, 2020
Frederick Schaedtler

Chief Technology Officer, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from Frederick Schaedtler, Chief Technology Officer at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we work every day to help people create more places to walk and bike in their communities. We work with our partners across the country to create and connect multiuse walking and biking trails, and we encourage people to find and use the more than 36,000 miles of multiuse trails that exist throughout the country. When our organization was founded in 1986, the focus was on preserving former railroad corridors as trails, and since that time we've helped communities convert more than 24,000 miles of rail-trails around the U.S.

In the early days, our initial efforts to promote trails were through paper guidebooks. After having initial success building out our own trails database and converting these old paper maps to digital, we quickly realized that we needed a collaborator to publish our spatial information online.


We started working with Google Maps back in 2006 to help us publish all our interactive maps on our website, TrailLink.com. TrailLink is Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's trail-finder website and companion TrailLink mobile apps. One of the reasons we selected Google Maps Platform in those early days is because of the power of accurate location data and the flexibility of the platform, especially the Maps JavaScript API, which allowed us to publish interactive trail maps on our website for our users.

And over the years, we’ve mapped more than 36,000 miles of multiuse trails and we’ve contributed to Google Maps by donating thousands of miles of trail data to help launch biking directions. We're really proud of that contribution and the lasting value it brings to so many people.

Looking toward the future, and with the continued support of Google Maps Platform, we plan to continue to expand our reach to even more users, increasingly taking a mobile-first approach to promoting and publishing our trail data to millions of Americans.

This is our journey with Google Maps Platform

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For more information on Google Maps Platform, visit our website.

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