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New Work: A Conversation About California Parks

Today marks the official launch of, a project designed to highlight social media from parks and open spaces across California, created in partnership with Electric Roadrunner Lab.

“Stories pour out of our parks every day. This project is a first step towards visualizing Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and Foursquare content using the actual boundaries of our parks, so that we can start to understand how people feel about their favorite open spaces. Taken together these stories make plain that parks are integral to the lives of all Californians. They are evidence for the argument that access to open space must be protected — and expanded — for all and that parks need our support. This is also a tool that park rangers, managers, and advocates can use to understand how people are using parks and to connect with their customers and supporters.”

The project’s original concept came from writer and educator Jon Christensen, editor of BOOM! A Journal of California and his Electric Roadrunner Lab. Jon sees this work as a gift to the parks and park visitors, an experiment about learning who is using the parks and how. It’s the start of a conversation about how we use open spaces in this screen-mediated age. Parks, it turns out, aren’t just places where you get away from your everyday life and connect with nature (if they ever were) — they’re also places of deep social meaning and engagement with others, and this project is a way of taking a new look at how we do that in the age of mobile everywhere. Our hope is that this project helps park rangers and staff to see your stories, and to clearly show how people are using and enjoying parks across California.

Project initiator Jon Christensen leading a workshop with Stamen and parks stakeholders about social media use in California Parks.

After building some initial prototypes, Stamen and Electric Roadrunner gathered colleagues from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, East Bay Regional Park District, Bay Area Open Space Council, Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, California State Parks Foundation, Latino Outdoors, and Point Reyes National Seashore to review and discuss how a project like could help them in their work. It was a really useful day, and we’re listening closely for ideas and feedback from parks folks about the project.

If you’d like to contribute to the conversation, here’s how to join in:

  1. Go to
  2. Search for your favorite California park and find the park’s hashtag, like #YOSE for Yosemite National Park, or #ALCA for Alcatraz Island.
  3. Include that hashtag when you share content on Twitter, Instagram, Flickr or Foursquare

Look for the wander link too. It’ll take you to a random open space and hopefully bring you to new parks that you didn’t even know existed!

Not in California? Don’t have any pics? Wish you had a project like this in your state? We’d still love to hear from you on Twitter, joining the conversation on #caliparks and following @parks_stamen. You can also send us a good old-fashioned email to let us know your thoughts.

Many thanks to Larry Orman and his team at GreenInfo Network for producing the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), which is undoubtedly the backbone of the project. Thanks are also due to the San Diego Air and Space Museum for letting us use this lovely photo of Yosemite for the homepage backdrop, and to Jamison Wieser from the Noun Project for our handsome arrow icon.

Now go explore!

Published: 03.27.14
Updated: 09.20.22

About Stamen

Stamen is a globally recognized strategic design partner and one of the most established cartography and data visualization studios in the industry. For over two decades, Stamen has been helping industry giants, universities, and civic-minded organizations alike bring their ideas to life through designing and storytelling with data. We specialize in translating raw data into interactive visuals that inform, inspire and incite action. At the heart of this is our commitment to research and ensuring we understand the challenges we face. We embrace ambiguity, we thrive in data, and we exist to build tools that educate and inspire our audiences to act.