Use this Google tool to experience more than 100 miles of Round Rock trails virtually

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Staff dons Google unit to create real-life imagery of Round Rock-area trails

When Google contacted Round Rock Assistant City Manager Brooks Bennett about the possibility of creating a virtual portrayal of all of the city’s trails, five parks and recreation department staff members took it upon themselves to walk 72 different locations with a 50-pound backpack.

Each member took a shift walking the various trails while the backpack and its 16 cameras photographed the surrounding scenery via the Google Trekker program.

Jillian Arthur, city of Round Rock business systems analyst, said each staffer often took a partner in the process so they could take turns toting the backpack.

Staff dons Google unit to create real-life imagery of Round Rock-area trails

“It is just like the street cam that goes on top of the car, but it straps on. You start walking and then you go as far as you can — normally 2 to 5 miles per person is really the max it could be handled per day,” she said.

The trail photographing took roughly five weeks before Google took its turn stitching together each of the images to make a comprehensive experience for potential trail-goers.

The city has been using the new images to draw potential park visitors and explain various elements of the trail systems.

For example, Arthur said the city has had visitors in its office asking how to navigate certain areas of the trails. With the Google photos, the process is easier.

“We use it for general questions all the time,” Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation David Buzzell said. “I assume it is probably being used by people looking for homes to purchase; just like they use street view, they are going to look at all the surrounding amenities.”

In total, the city of Round Rock photographed roughly 23 miles of trails in the city, 20 miles outside the city and throughout Williamson County and approximately 60 miles at city facilities around the area, the longest of which—Brushy Creek Trail—required the department to take three separate trips.

Staff dons Google unit to create real-life imagery of Round Rock-area trails
Arthur said each person the trekker encountered always had questions about the project.

“It is a very awkward piece of equipment, and I’m pretty sure every person I walked past wanted to know what I was doing,” Arthur said. “It is kind of a fun way to explain what we were doing, just getting out there and talking to the community.”

The end result looks much like what one would find on the street view mode within Google Maps. Users can look up a specific trail, park or city facility and select street view to see recently updated images.

Eventually the department wants to develop a smartphone application that would pull together all of the photos, Arthur said.