Thursday, August 16, 2007

Helping elected officials understand the area they represent

The Illinois Park and Recreation Association has a new, high tech, and better yet, free way of letting people know a little bit more about their park services. Ostensibly designed for the general public, their mapping approach has tremendous application in the advocacy arena. Why? I'm glad you asked. When dealing with elected officials and their staff, nothing is more powerful than actually showing them the facilities / businesses and people in the district that will be impacted by their policies.

The Illinois Park and Recreation Association and its LocateAPark site achieves this goal through a "mash up" of information about their member parks with Google Maps. And the coolest thing about it is that they just used their database information and two free online geocoding and mapping services, Geocoder and GoogleMaps. Sure, it took some time, but the basic tools are available to everyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

Of course, the mapping service is only as good as the data that goes into it -- Google Maps will map whatever address you give it, even if it's wrong. Nevertheless, these tools have tremendous potential for any association or organization that wants to build a geographic representation of their members, products or services.

For more information about this cool site, check out the Associations Now article highlighting the IPRA's work

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