Build a Path with Google Earth

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is the Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick. The Cultural trail is a world-class urban bike and pedestrian path that connects neighborhoods, Cultural Districts and entertainment amenities, and serves as the downtown hub for the entire central Indiana greenway system. It’s a fantastic project that is beginning to take root here locally.

In speaking with Pat Coyle, I thought it would be cool to actually map the Cultural Trail and put it on a Google Map so folks could interact through Google Earth (You can download it for free) or view it on a Web Site.

Google Earth:

Google Earth

Building a path for a Google Map could have been intimidating, but with Google Earth it’s pretty easy. You can use the Path tool Path to create a path. Click the path tool and click where your path begins and ends. A line will be drawn. Each click after will produce a mid-point. It can be kind of tricky (ctrl-click deletes a point), but you can quickly produce a path on a map. If you right-click on your layer in the sidebar, you can add descriptions, change the look and feel of your layer, and even set the altitude.

Cultural Trail Flat

With Google Earth, you can also tilt the landscape and turn a ton of other layers on and off. The top-right set of tools allows you to zoom, tilt, change your view, rotate, and change altitude. The usability of the application is very intuitive!

Cultural Trail 3d

In December, Google Maps added KML support to their API, so you can easily output your layers as a KML file and point to it with a Google Map.

As well, you can document and upload your layers for folks to discover them. I haven’t done that yet, but I will be soon! The first part of this project was to create the path. One neat trick – I opened an image of the Cultural Trail and imported it into Google Earth. I set it to about 30 percent transparency and used it as a gauge to map the trail quicker.

The next part of this project will be building an interactive map with mouseovers on points and popups of images. Cool stuff!


  1. 1

    This is a truly amazing technology. Mapquest has not started placing satellite overviews on maps.

    Have some research time setup to see if we can use this within out practice management system. Would be nice to have directions of routes to clients for our consultants.

    • 2

      Directions is a recent feature of the Google Maps API so it could be utilized to create an external file that’s available via Google Earth. Route optimization (2+ points) is a little tougher equation. There are some vendors out there that do it well like Routesmart but I’ve not seen any API or Software as a Service implementations.

      I’m sure that’s around the corner somewhere! 🙂

      I agree – it is amazing!

  2. 3

    Doug, That is pretty cool. Thanks for sharing! I have never sat down to figure this stuff out, but it seems like the possibilities are endless. One use I can immediately see that would sell is embedding google maps with custom overlays right into clients’ web sites.

    • 4

      Absolutely, Ian! I am still having some fun with this map. I could add search, put a ‘self-service’ marker system up, add routing, and abunch of other features. Check out Address Fix for another example. I hope to have an interactive mapping site set up this week.

      BTW: Fantastic site and look forward to meeting you. We’ve got a ‘loose’ network of professionals here in Indy that we work with to help a ton of clients. We may need to get you in the mix!

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