Among the trails that will soon have 360-degree images on SEMCOG’s Park Finder app is the Dequindre Cut in Detroit.

Among the trails that will soon have 360-degree images on SEMCOG’s Park Finder app is the Dequindre Cut in Detroit.

Photo provided by Marc Pasco


SEMCOG app to introduce 360-degree tours of local trails, waterways

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published July 6, 2018

 High-resolution 360-degree cameras on vehicles, boats and backpacks will be used to capture virtual, interactive tours of local trails and waterways in a manner similar to Google Maps.

High-resolution 360-degree cameras on vehicles, boats and backpacks will be used to capture virtual, interactive tours of local trails and waterways in a manner similar to Google Maps.

Photo provided by Marc Pasco

DETROIT — The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is preparing to offer a new resource to residents and visitors to the southeast Michigan area: visual mapping of several of the region’s parks, trails and waterways.

Comparing the resource to Google Maps, SEMCOG has partnered with Terrain 360, a company that uses high-resolution, panoramic, 360-degree digital cameras to capture images that allow users of SEMCOG’s Michigan Park Finder app to view three-dimensional tours of those trails.

“The walking trails will be mapped using a trike bicycle with a camera above it,” explained Kevin Vettraino, manager of plan implementation at SEMCOG. “There are a few areas where they will be using a backpack unit, where the trike can’t get to. The water trails will be mapped using boats, which slowly meander down rivers and lakes taking photos every few seconds. The cameras take panoramic, 360-degree photos every few seconds, which are then combined into the final virtual images.”

Areas in Wayne County that will be mapped in this way include 44 miles of hiking and biking trails, such as the Detroit Riverwalk and the Dequindre Cut in Detroit, the Downriver Linked Greenways and the Hines Park Trail, which begins in Dearborn and ends in Northville. SEMCOG also will map 62 miles of water trails, such as the Detroit River Heritage Trail and the Rouge River Water Trail.

“I would say southeast Michigan is very fortunate to have an abundance of these trails and greenways, so what (SEMCOG) is doing will be a tremendous resource for people,” said Marc Pasco, the director of communications at Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, which oversees the Riverwalk and the Dequindre Cut. “We’re thrilled to be included in it.”

The mapping process will take place throughout July, and the 360-degree images will be ready for the public in the autumn.

“Our goal is to have this completed by September or October,” said Vettraino. “All the actual mapping will be done by Terrain 360 personnel. We will be helping provide them with assistance by giving them people who know the trails and know the area they’re mapping.”

The resource will be available through SEMCOG’s Southeast Michigan ParkFinder app.

“Park Finder is a mobile app, which contains information on regional parks from small parkland to huge regional parks,” Vettraino added. “It provides residents and visitors with the attributes of those parks. If I want to know where I can play basketball, for instance, it can tell me which parks are close to where I’m going to be and which have courts. It’s a one-stop shop for all of our park assets. … You can just click the option for park view and see the 360-degree imagery when you are looking at the park, as opposed to just seeing a line on a map or still photos.”

Vettraino thinks this will encourage more residents to visit the trails and help them plan new outdoor activities.

“Our hiking and biking trail maps ... give you really great scenery, the sense of elevation, the terrain and what sort of sights you will encounter,” he continued. “Seeing things like the length of the shoreline and the current will undoubtedly help people considering an activity like kayaking a certain river.”

Vettraino said adding this resource to the region will not only aid local residents, but will also help promote tourism.

“We know that trails are an economic driver. People like to get outdoors, so we are looking at this from a tourism standpoint. If people know we have great trails, we are promoting those assets,” he said. “We also are letting residents know what they have in their own backyard. It provides momentum to let people know what great options they have for recreation here.”

These particular trails were chosen for mapping due to their prominence or their ability to demonstrate different aspects of southeast Michigan’s outdoors.

“The Detroit Riverwalk gives a good picture of the city, the water trails show off the coastline, featuring the Detroit River and Belle Isle, as well as the coasts on the east side,” Vettraino remarked. “We wanted to capture a good snapshot of the region’s trail network. We’re fortunate to have a good mix of hiking and biking trails, and growing water trails. We want to get as much mapped now so we could highlight the most popular, as well as those which show a good variety of what our region offers.”

Those in charge of the trails are looking forward to being able to use the maps to better assist those whom they serve.

“It sounds like a great project,” remarked Pasco. “The Dequindre Cut and Riverwalk are very popular with people who like to use those public spaces to run, walk or Rollerblade. With this information available to people, it will help introduce these public spaces to more people who can come down and use them.”