Park Tiles

Posted on 05 May 2014 by Mamata Akella

A little over a year ago, we introduced the first version of the National Park Service’s basemap, Park Tiles. Today we are excited to announce the launch of a newly designed, more detailed version of the map!

Built for National Parks

Park Tiles is a custom-built basemap designed first and foremost to highlight the special places around the country that the National Park Service manages.

In order to make National Park units the focus, most information that is not directly related to Parks has been omitted from the map. We’ve also decreased the amount of labels on the map to enhance support for overlays. The example shown below includes POIs (points of interest) from the Places system overlaid on top of the basemap. At larger scales, the POIs in parks are interactive and can be clicked to access more information about individual features.

Zion National Park

From air visiblity data to road closure status and campsite availability, Park Tiles has a flexible design that can be used to support a wide variety of overlays and use cases. Park Tiles can also be used as a standalone map that Parks can embed in their website.

More Detail

The biggest change to Park Tiles is that the map now shows more detail in Parks. The first version of the map was built to zoom 9 (~1:1,000,000) while the current version is built to zoom 19 (~1:1,000). This means you can now zoom into any one of the 400+ Parks around the country that the National Park service manages and see building-level detail.

Combining Data Sources

Park Tiles uses a combination of OSM (OpenStreetMap) and National Park Service data. We are using OSM primarily for base data, including administrative boundaries, place names, hydrography, roads, and buildings. We are using Park Service data for Park boundaries, Park names, and POIs within Parks. In addition, we are using a vector hillshade layer created by Mapbox.

As the National Park Service develops servicewide datasets, we plan on incrementally replacing OSM data within National Park boundaries with this data.

Vector Tiles

The first version of Park Tiles was built using TileMill, an open source cartographic design studio. Park Tiles is now built with TileMill 2, which allows us to take advantage of the new vector tiles format. Vector tiles make it possible for us to seamlessly combine custom Park Service data with minutely-updated data coming in from OpenStreetMap. This means that Park Tiles is now a truly living map. Changes made in OSM appear in Park Tiles within minutes, and changes made to Park Service data in our Places system are also pulled in on a regular schedule.

The switch to vector tiles also allows us to start experimenting with next generation client-side rendering techniques.

Park Tiles in Action

NPMap will continue to use Park Tiles as the basemap for many of our custom projects. Park Tiles is also now the default basemap in the NPMap Builder, a map building interface that guides NPS employees through making web maps that are accessible, responsive, and fit into the graphic identity of the National Park Service. Park Tiles will also serve as the centerpiece of the Places Mobile framework - providing locations, sites, and geo-located content for iOS and Android apps created by Parks.

Park Tiles is available for use by all National Park Service Parks, programs, regions, and partner organizations. Contact us if you’re interested in using the map in your project.

Take a Tour

You can access the full map viewer here. We’d appreciate any feedback you have, so feel free to send us feedback by clicking the “Submit Feedback” link in the bottom right-hand corner of the map.

We’ve also started a list of Frequently Asked Questions to help answer some basic questions about Park Tiles. Check back often for new content on that page.

Stay Tuned

In the coming weeks, stay tuned for more detailed blog posts on how we built Park Tiles and how you can help us improve the map.

We are actively working on ‘exploding’ the map like we did with the original version of Park Tiles. We’ll report on our progress with that soon!