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Metro Parks Tacoma enlists volunteers in high-tech outreach effort

April 3, 2017

April 14-15 Hackathon will open agency data for techies to create tools to connect people, parks  

Metro Parks Tacoma is opening up a new realm of volunteerism using digital technology to get more people involved in parks and recreation activities.

The platform is a hackathon, a two-day event geared to professional and amateur techies who are invited to strategically dig into all sorts of  data and create digital tools that will increase public access and engagement.

"Hackathon – Parks and People United Through Technology" takes place Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15, at STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St., Tacoma.

It’s an opportunity for the technically savvy among us to collaborate and create, marrying their passion for parks and recreation with technical skills to produce something Metro Parks otherwise couldn’t accomplish.

“I love that Metro Parks is turning to the tech community for this hackathon,” said Erik Hanberg, one of five members of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners. “I know just enough code to give me an appreciation for what a real coder can bring to a challenge like this, and I look forward to seeing what these volunteers can produce for the community.”

Metro Parks’ first computer hackathon is free and open to anyone with the eagerness and skills to participate. Students are welcome. Target skill sets include people familiar with geographic information systems (GIS), digital cartography, databases, data science, information architecture, game design and web development.

“We’re attempting to leverage local and regional tech talent to help solve real-world parks and recreation issues,” said John Laughery, Metro Parks GIS supervisor. “We’re throwing this out to the broader community because ideas from outside the organization are often really helpful.”

Products of the hackathon could include mobile applications, interactive calendars and notification tools, crowdsourcing applications, educational tools, web pages and interactive maps.

As part of the event, representatives of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), based in Ashburn, VA, will unveil their “Park Path” interactive mobile app, using Metro Parks’ GIS data. Metro Parks is the first agency in the nation to use the app.

Hackathon participants will be invited to piggyback on Park Path in ways that expand its capabilities, said Joe Brady, Metro Parks’ chief strategy officer. “We’re providing a big pot of data and we’ll see how folks at the hackathon utilize it,” he added.

The event is sponsored by GeoEngineers, the University of Washington Tacoma, and CloudPWR. Partners are Esri, New Tech NW and NRPA.

Register or learn more about Hackathon -- Parks and People United Through Technology.

  • What: Hackathon – Parks and People United Through Technology
  • When: April 14 and 15
  • Where: STAR Center, 3873 S. 66th St., Tacoma WA 98409
  • Cost: Free. Meals will be provided. Prizes will be awarded. Please register in advance.
  • Information: (253) 404-3939



Michael Thompson, Public Information Manager, (253) 305-1092;