‘Trekker’ provides views of city parks

Columbus’ parks system and other green space throughout the city will be visible to the world after images from a new form of photo technology are released online.

As part of a nationwide effort to increase the number of parks photos available online through the Google Street View feature, the local parks department spent most of a week taking photos of Columbus’ various parks with a Google Trekker.

The Google Trekker is a 50-pound orb equipped with 15 internal cameras that, when turned on, take photos every 2.5 seconds to create a panoramic view of the surrounding scenery, said Lisa Nye, Indiana Park and Recreation Association executive director.

The Google company is using the Trekker as part of a nationwide initiative to gather more images of parks across the country that can be viewed online through the Street View function, thus encouraging people to visit those parks.

The Indiana Park and Recreation Association is the first in the nation to partner with Google on its Google Trekker initiative, Nye said. The state park association’s partnership with Google also is being recognized as an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project, she said.

The Columbus parks department was invited to be one of 25 Indiana parks organizations to participate in the Trekker program because of its heavy involvement with the state park association, said Nikki Murphy, director of sports programs for the parks department.

When the Google Trekker arrived in Columbus on Sunday, parks department staffers mounted the spherical camera on an all-terrain vehicle and set about photographing nearly a dozen different locations across Columbus, including:

The People Trail system

Mill Race Park

Clifty Park

Lincoln Park

The Columbus city cemetery

Donner Park

Oakbrook Park

Harrison Ridge Park

Foundation for Youth/Columbus Gymnastics Center

Greenbelt Golf Course

Par 3 Golf Course

Those locations were chosen because they are areas of the city that people are likely to use Google to find more information, Murphy said.

The local parks department handed the Trekker off to the Daviess-Martin Joint County Parks and Recreation Department on Thursday, Murphy said.

Once all 25 participating Indiana parks departments have had their turn with the Google Trekker, the images and data will be sent back to Google, Nye said. The tech company will take six months to a year to process all of the data and will then stitch all of the images together and use the final product as promotional material for the state’s various park systems, she said.

About the Google Trekker

The Google Trekker is a spherical orb containing 15 internal cameras. Each of the cameras simultaneously takes a photo every 2.5 seconds, and each of those photos work together to create one panoramic image.

When the batteries are installed, the Google Trekker weighs roughly 50 pounds. All of its functions are controlled by a mobile phone, and the images and data are collected on SSD memory cards that are shipped to Google for processing.

The Trekker is equipped with technology that blurs identifying images, such as faces and license plates, so that people do not have to worry about their personal information appearing online.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.