After state parks complain, feds shift gears on approach to recreation portal

The system points to a state or private Web site when a user wants information from a specific geographic region. 'It is an elegant solution because we cannot promote individual businesses.'

'Interior's Scott Cameron

Henrik G. DeGyor

When the Interior Department started down the road of creating an all-inclusive Web site for citizens to find recreation information at national and state parks, project managers envisioned collecting and managing all the data.

But when state officials and recreation associations balked at having their information usurped by the federal government, Charlie Grymes, the Recreation One-Stop project manager, shifted the project's vision.

Now Grymes hopes to make the conduit to outdoor recreation information at national and state parks and privately owned campgrounds.

'We had to make a turn in the road to facilitate the sharing of data,' he said. 'We were told not to go too far and take over the functions.'

To that end, Grymes is forming a technical committee to develop recreation data standards through the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, a nonprofit consortium that helps develop e-business standards.

Interior, the General Services Administration and at least one other federal agency will form the technical committee along with other interested organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute and National Recreation and Parks Association, and begin work this month. Grymes said the goal is to have the initial set of standards'a data reference model'finished by September.

'Our concern is to get clear data standards and allow flexibility for the technology to evolve,' Grymes said. 'We want people to know this is not a federal-only project. We want to figure out who cares, what they have developed and make sure different communities are aware of different standards.'

Scott Cameron, Interior deputy assistant secretary for performance and management, said the sophistication of the existing recreation Web sites caused the shift.

'We essentially are setting up a system that points to the state or private Web site when the user wants specific geography,' Cameron said. 'It is an elegant solution because the federal government cannot promote individual businesses, but everyone benefits from the federal perspective.'

Grymes said there already are de facto standards for things such as boat ramps, but other terms such as 'campground' will be more difficult to define. The goal is to have all information mean the same thing to everyone, he added.

Grymes said most standards will be obvious, but definitions for about 20 percent of the terms used have never been agreed to.

'There is a substantial role for industry in helping to create the data standards,' said Mark Forman, associate director for IT and e-government for the Office of Management and Budget. 'We believe that we have to take the leadership role in establishing data and technology standards that reflect best practices.'


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