Editing others' features and consulting sources

Greetings, new poster here, so please bear with my naivety of this forum.

I have found a few features in my area that I believe ought to be edited, but I am unsure about how to go about these changes for a few reasons:

  1. Do I need to contact the original creator to change this feature, and if so, what is the most appropriate way of doing so?
  2. If I am allowed to edit it directly, am I allowed to use primary online sources for the feature in question, or am I only allowed to use OSM’s approved sources (such as Bing imagery) or my own local knowledge for reference?

For example, I see a school grounds area that is tagged as leisure=park and it has a misspelling in its title, so I would like to change the area to amenity=school, and change the title. May I consult the school district’s website to find the correct attributes of their school? I know to not use Google maps or other similar third-party map information sites, but the primary source usage seems unclear to me. What if I know the information from common/local knowledge of the area?


You have local knowledge and can drive/bicycle/walk by it to confirm that it is a school and get the signed correct name of the school. So you should correct the tagging to show school and the name, on the comment field when you upload the changes specify “survey” to indicate that you did a field check.

@n76 Thank you, and that seems to answer my first question and what I should do in that example. That said, should I refrain from checking primary online sources for attribute or spatial information?

I suppose I should clarify this with another example: I found a park that is labeled as leisure=park on OSM, but its current mapped boundaries are difficult to determine from the imagery alone, as it is adjacent to an area that I believe to be separate open space. I would like to consult the park’s district website to see if they have an outline of it, but the copyright information from OSM states:

With this said, I’m unsure where the border between park and open space lies, since it is not physically marked with a fence, etc. If I cannot reference the official source of the information, I do not feel comfortable editing the feature, but I also do not want to leave it as is if it is indeed an incorrect boundary. What might I do here?

Does the park district’s website have a decent map (those in my area have pretty stylized maps that usually don’t help in making better boundaries). If it does have a decent map, do they publish their license or can you get (preferably in writing) the license from the park district? With license in hand, does it look compatible with OSM? If you can answer all of those in the affirmative then there should be no issue in using that to improve the boundaries.

The copyright that is associated with the data is key. Many organizations have clauses in their permissions that mean they can’t be used by OSM. If uncertain, it is best not to use the data.

In my area where a park is adjacent to an open space there is usually a change of some sort that is close to or on the boundary (e.g. mowed grass area ends, a low fence, etc.). And I usually just use that to locate of the boundary for OSM. My feeling is that no map is perfect and my goal is to simply improve the map . So even if the boundary is not perfect, if it provides better information than was there before then the map is better.

Fair enough, and though I am not very comfortable with discussing licenses, copyrights, or permissions with such an organization, I suppose it is the most appropriate way to be able to use their information. But at this point, I first might take your advice for finding the subtle changes in boundaries myself instead of going through with the more “bureaucratic” method.

I appreciate the answers, so thank you very much for taking your time explaining them. Cheers!

It’s worth remembering that OSM works best by iterative refinement: originally there were no aerial images so things like parks were mapped by guesswork, or from other very imprecise sources. Absolutely precise boundaries are often a nice to have: for instance you will likely not notice imperfections in a boundary with most map apps on phones & GPS.


  • Firstly: it’s quite likely that additional sources of imagery will become available which will allow refinement in the future. (I’m continually finding stuff I mapped years ago and never updated after imagery became available).
  • Second: Embrace uncertainty! Part of the fun of OSM is finding stuff like this out for yourself. It might mean wandering around the park with a GPS, talking to folk (in particular, older people who have lived in an area for a long time often have really detailed knowledge), finding local groups interested in these things (in the UK local history societies often have a wealth of info). In my experience delving into such matters both deepens and enriches one’s understanding of a local area.

@SK53 Thank you for your input, and the more I work with OSM, the more I am beginning to agree with your assessment. Perhaps my questions stem from the bit of perfectionist in me that I cannot seem to shake off, no matter how hard I try. So I will attempt to broaden my understanding about the area from the various local community members in order to make the decisions for the map.

I appreciate your response, and thanks again!