The Parks Canada and Google Street View Project
Parks Canada and Google have forged a partnership to document and place a wide selection of Parks Canada iconic destinations within Google Street View, providing Canadians and anyone anywhere in the world with a virtual experience that enables them to explore and discover the highlights of these special places.
Street View is a technology Google uses to create three-dimensional panoramas of a location, from the perspective of someone exploring that location. Users can virtually navigate around a location in three dimensions, zoom in and out, and explore through a continuous series of linked panoramas, simulating an experience of visiting that location, both outdoors and indoors. Google Street View is integrated directly into Google Maps and Google Earth, products used by millions of people in Canada and hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Which Parks Canada places is Google documenting?
Google plans to document a wide sample of national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas all over Canada. Parks Canada staff has also been trained to operate Google’s Street View equipment, enabling Parks Canada to document some of Canada’s more remote national parks that are otherwise challenging for Google to visit.
As the documentation process is highly weather-dependent, and filming in rugged natural environments always poses challenges and potential delays, it is impossible to share ahead of time a concrete schedule of where Google will be. We will be promoting the many stops when Google Street View teams arrive at Parks Canada places to begin collections.
About Street View
Google uses a variety of equipment to photograph places, including the Street View car, tricycle, trolley and their back-pack-mounted camera called the Street View Trekker (Behind the Scenes Street View).
The Street View Trekker has proven very successful for collecting images while hiking in both natural and historic settings and can even be used to document boat tours. This equipment will continue to be the workhorse of the Parks Canada-Google collaboration, allowing Google to document a wide range of features within Canada’s national heritage places including back country hikes, front country day-use trails, campgrounds, around the many nooks and crannies of historic properties, and even up into and along fortification walls.
Other Google equipment is used to document the interior of buildings and museums. This technology can be used to extend the virtual exploration from an outdoor tour, to a full experience bringing visitors right inside some of the country’s most prominent national historic sites.
What does this initiative cost Parks Canada and Canadians?
Under the terms of Parks Canada’s Partnering Agreement with Google, the travel and documentation costs for collecting images for Street View by Google’s teams are covered by Google. Parks Canada contributes support in kind, mostly in the form of staff time necessary to identify the most scenic routes and interesting trails for Google to document, and to accompany the Google teams while they are collecting images onsite to ensure their safety and that of visitors and of cultural and natural resources at each location.
Parks Canada will also provide transportation within its locations when access is otherwise challenging (e.g. boat access to islands and across large bodies of water).
Parks Canada will cover the costs to send its own staff, trained to use Google’s equipment, to more remote national parks that are not feasible for Google to visit itself. Wherever possible these trips will be combined with already planned business trips or other trips planned as part of various new visitor offers Parks Canada is piloting.
How will Street View images of Canada’s national heritage places be useful to Canadians and others?
Millions of people use Google’s online mapping products, including Street View, every day. The varieties of ways they use the technology are as diverse as the people using it. Virtual visits on Street View will of course never replace the experience of walking in the footsteps of history, or exploring a national park in person, but it can help connect Canada’s increasing urban population with their national treasures that are often remote from our urban cores. Some of the ways Parks Canada envisions the Street View panoramas will be used by Canadians include:
Virtual visits and dreaming
Street View allows users to explore the wilderness of one of Canada’s national parks, or dive into the history of a part of the country to which they’ve never travelled, all from the comfort of their home, or while on the go. All you need is a computer, mobile phone or tablet, and an Internet connection. It’s a great way to start dreaming about your next trip!
Education and learning
Every Canadian student will study Canada’s history at some point in their education. The national historic sites managed by Parks Canada are historic for a reason, because they are the places where many of those Canadian historic milestones actually happened. Rather than just reading about the Battle of Batoche, or the Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in textbooks, Street View provides a whole new kind of learning experience. Teachers and students can use Street View to take detailed virtual tours and see what these places actually look like, both in class and at home. In some cases the Street View images will be clear enough to even read text on exhibit panels.
Canada’s national parks are amazing destinations, but for many Canadians getting back to nature can be an unfamiliar experience. Not knowing what to expect when you arrive at a campground, what the general scenery will be like, or even feeling concerned about whether a hiking trail is too intense for your experience, are all things that can make people uneasy about visiting a national park. Street View allows you to scope out a park ahead of time, peek into a typical campground, and “drive” down a few roadways to see what it all looks like. That’s a whole new way of planning your trip! In some cases you’ll even be able to see what part of a campground is along a lake, or closest to the showers!