Chicago Park District website shown at different viewports

The Chicago Park District owns more than 8,800 acres of green space, making it the largest municipal park manager in the nation. The Chicago Park District’s more than 600 parks offer thousands of sports and physical activities as well as cultural and environmental programs for youth, adults, and seniors. The Chicago Park District is also responsible for 28 indoor pools, 50 outdoor pools, and 26 miles of lakefront including 23 swimming beaches plus one inland beach.

Clarity redesigned, built, and hosts the official website for the Chicago Park District (CPD). Clarity designed and developed this user-friendly, mobile-responsive site, with a unified look and feel and marketing emphasis to promote CPD’s parks, programs, and events. The new website acts as a solution focused on its customers – “front end” visitors of the website and “back end” content administers – both of whom have a wide scope of needs.

Specifically, the new site provides the following improvements and features:

  • New Content Management System (CMS) Platform
    • Drupal 8, the latest version of the popular open-source framework;
    • Allows CPD to more easily integrate and connect to third-party tools, such as
      • ActiveNet, which provides externally-hosted ecommerce functions;
      • AppliTrack, which provides job postings;
      • Bonfire, which provides procurement and contracting opportunities;
      • MailChimp, which provides newsletter signup capabilities.
  • Updated design based on user focus group reactions to the old site, including
    • A cleaner, refreshed look built for devices of all sizes;
    • Home page updates that allow CPD staff to push more information in a more organized fashion;
    • Larger emphasis on maps (hugely important for such a large metropolitan area);
    • The ability to highlight features and attractions, such as artworks and natural areas, that CPD has to offer both residents and visitors;
    • Overall increased speed and performance.
  • Improved administrative functions that allow for
    • Distributed content responsibilities;
    • Workflow approvals to ensure editorial integrity;
    • More modular administrative tools allowing CPD to highlight location details such as accessibility features

With its new site, Chicago Park District is now poised to better serve the long-term needs of residents and visitors for years to come.

Why Drupal was chosen: 
  • Open source
  • Ease of integrations:
    • ActiveNet
    • Applitrack
    • Bonfire
    • MailChimp
  • Ease of data sharing:
    • Data from the website feeds My Chi Parks mobile application
  • Regular security updates
  • Flexibility to add content moving forward
  • Foundation for enhancements moving forward

Chicago Park District was already leaning toward an open source solution to replatform its website. CPD ultimately chose a Drupal solution because of its large community (and thus deep developer resources for future support), its facility for integrations with other systems, its regular security updates, and the demonstrated flexibility to easily add content and functionality.

Describe the project (goals, requirements and outcome): 
  • Responsive design
  • Site elements highlighted based on user feedback
  • Stable code base
  • Self-administering
  • Cloud hosting
  • Easier maintenance

Chicago Park District had long been in need of a new CMS platform for its primary website. The old site had already been through several design iterations, but CPD had gotten to the point where significant code changes were required to support the enhancements it desired moving forward. Rather than continue to build on an older, highly-customized CMS, CPD opted to create a new site on Drupal 8.

CPD began the project with an eye towards thoughtful and considered changes. The replatform effort was undertaken with specific guidelines to serve as a vision for the new site:

  • Continue adding and enriching website content to serve CPD patrons;
  • More and deeper data control;
  • Modularity and flexibility, so the data is future-proofed;
  • Create the foundation for data usage across multiple platforms; and
  • Use the best tools available, and make investments that make long-term sense.

To further that effort, CPD relied on its own analytics data to explore the areas that website visitors most frequented, as well as the devices most often used to view the site. This data, in conjunction with benchmarking research against similar sites, fed directly into the wireframes and designs for the new site. But before finalizing those designs, CPD went one step further and conducted a user focus group on the old site to verify what pain points needed to be fixed. The results of that focus group effort can be found here: .

All of this data together reinforced the need for the site to be responsively designed, but it also highlighted the ways in which people found the information they needed. As a result, the new site highlights geographical data in a way the previous site did not, and searching and filtering options were simplified to enable quicker user searches.

CPD also needed to ensure that the content about its parks, facilities, events, and programs would continue to be accurate across the digital systems that shared this data. In particular, the new Drupal site would act as the central data hub between the park, program, and event data between its ecommerce site, powered by ActiveNet ( ), and its mobile application, My Chi Parks. To that end, the Drupal site is configured to consume ActiveNet information on a nightly basis, which then allows CPD staff to supplement that information through additional content and robust taxonomy relationships, which are then fed into the mobile application via JSON feeds.

A final set of requirements was to make CPD staff true owners of the site content. With the new Drupal site, content owners have direct access to change content on the site, with workflow to ensure editorial integrity. The new site is fully under CPD’s control, which enables it to be more timely and responsive to its patrons’ needs.

With its new site, Chicago Park District is now poised to better serve the long-term needs of residents and visitors for years to come.

Why these modules/theme/distribution were chosen: 

Geolocation Field, Geocoder
These modules, along with a few custom functions, allow map and feed data to be generated from address information or manual map entry.

Migrate, Migrate Tools, Migrate Plus
The combination of these powerful modules allows complex data imports and granular processing from multiple sources.

Office Hours
The park hours data for over 3,000 locations is managed simply and effectively in the UI using this module. Office Hours even provides a great looking responsive table display out of the box.

Paragraphs made some of our quirky content entry tasks easier by providing collections of related fields in one place.

The Scheduler module allows timed publishing for news, press releases, and other time-sensitive content.

Through the use of Workbench and some custom functions, we were able to provide complex content access restrictions for users per department.

Project team: 

Turing Group

Marc DeLay

Example of multiple system integrations in the Drupal 8 CPD website
Example of the mapping emphasis in the CPD Drupal 8 site