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I have adopted the responsibility of mapping trails/paths within an area of government-managed lands used for recreation (hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, etc). Within the boundaries of this land, all land use is strictly managed, and creation of new trails or modification of existing trails is prohibited without authorization from land managers. We've not seen any problems with people adding unauthorized trails to OSM (although there have been plenty of illegal trails built), but we would like to know if it's possible to require edits within the area to be reviewed before being made live. We would hate for someone to be able to go cut an illegal trail, add it to OSM, and have that data propagate downstream and give legitimacy to it before it could be deleted.

The area in question is the Clemson Experimental Forest which is under the management of Clemson University, and in some areas, the Army Corps of Engineers (trails within a certain distance of the shore of Lake Hartwell).

Anyway, I'll appreciate any input on this.

asked 21 Mar '16, 14:32

ehidle's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

The simple answer is NO.

There is no moderation of live user edits, nor is there any standard mechanism implemented to enable such moderation. Many active editors will monitor contributions in areas which they know well using a variety of tools. For the most part the goal of keeping an eye on an area is primarily to spot certain things:

  • New contributors who might need a bit of assistance.
  • Well-meaning tag changes from folk out-of-area who might not be familiar with local conventions.
  • Edits based on outdated aerial imagery (again usually be out-of-area contributors).
  • Doodles
  • Deletions by contributors who didn't read the rubric about the database being live.
  • Vandalism.

Straight out & out vandalism is fairly rare.

More awkward is that OSM is primarily based on what is actually physically on the ground. So we have no problems with the mapping of an illicit trail compared to an official one: provided both exist. Censoring data on OSM for some meritorious motive has received a little attention over the years, for instance the removal of dangerous trails is advocated from time to time. Mostly such censoring is a judgement of a mapper not to add certain data to OSM. Some of the answers to other relevant queries on this site also address this issue:

As a cheeky aside, can I ask if you will be asking Strava & Runkeeper similar questions about moderating their data for the Clemson Forest.

permanent link

answered 21 Mar '16, 15:06

SK53's gravatar image

SK53 ♦
accept rate: 22%


About the only thing that I'd add to that is that where a path demonstrably exists but shouldn't because it was created illegally, you can use access tags to say that people aren't allowed to use it. Also, the "trail_visibility" tag might be appropriate (though not all maps render that; OSM's "standard" layer is one that doesn't).

Also, some of the Strava users local to me don't seem to care about access rights (for example, running across a field and hopping over a wall instead of going a slightly longer way around via a gate), and some non-surveying OSMers have been adding those "paths" to OSM

I regular keep an eye on OSM locally for "things added as paths that look like they might not be" and try and understand how they got in there (usually by talking to the person that added them).

(21 Mar '16, 15:46) SomeoneElse ♦

Thanks for the feedback, and your aside is not cheeky at all. Both Strava and Runkeeper are now using OSM mapping data provided by Mapbox, which is the appeal of applying some focus to the maps provided by OSM. We can spend some extra time making sure the OSM maps are very very accurate, and that data will eventually propagate downstream to Strava, Runkeeper, and the many other platforms that seem to be moving to OSM in droves. In fact, Strava has an online OSM edit tool that overlays their aggregated GPS heatmap to help more precisely map trails, and they also provide a sliding algorithm to mathematically push and nudge an already-mapped trail to match the heatmap. It's really nifty.

I agree that outright vandalism is rare. So far I have not seen any issues in the CEF and I really don't expect to. It was just a question to help me find out what our possibilities are for effective management of the forest, and to help maintain the safety of this public resource for all who use it. We are very happy that resources like OSM exist that allow us to take greater ownership of issues instead of depending upon closed resources and the whimsy of their owners to make changes.

(21 Mar '16, 16:58) ehidle

Highly relevant to this question is something I was unaware of when I wrote the answer: the retagging of such paths with highway=social_path in some Californian parks. Note that this is not something that I would advocate: in fact my answer applies fully to that situation too.

(25 Mar '16, 10:47) SK53 ♦

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question asked: 21 Mar '16, 14:32

question was seen: 2,739 times

last updated: 25 Mar '16, 10:47

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum