The NC State Parks “Pocket Ranger” mobile app for iPhones and Android smartphones was already a pretty good bargain. It’s free, and includes all the information that’s on the state parks website about each park and recreation area, including detailed maps and campground maps.
But one of the advantages of smartphone applications is that they’re regularly upgraded by the developers. Over time, they get even better and become a better bargain. Our partner with the state parks app, Parks By Nature, has always been aggressive in devising upgrades and they’ve just released a few welcome improvements.
The app’s GIS-based maps that can be downloaded before visitors come to a park now include trail information for most of the North Carolina State Parks. Now, visitors using the app can get their bearings on where they are in the park in relation to the trail network. It’s fun to navigate a hike this way, mark waypoints and create a photo tour of the experience. But, there’s also an obvious safety factor in having real-time information about precise locations on the trail with GPS coordinates.
Safety is also at the heart of another improvement. Each park’s “main page” in the app now sports a distinctive “Park Alerts” link. This is information visitors need to know regarding temporary closures and emergencies or any situation likely to affect the visit. For instance, if a campground loop must be closed because of downed trees, an alert can be posted immediately. In coming months, this alert system will be combined with the improved use of “push notifications” to automatically alert park visitors of significant emergency events, such as hurricanes, that can close parks on short notice.
Another improvement is all about fun (and education). Planning the ultimate state park adventure is now easier and faster with the app’s Events Calendar. It tells park visitors of all upcoming events at each park, such as interpretive programs, ranger-led hikes and festivals. In real time, the app’s calendar is synched to that of the state parks system’s website. Visitors get the latest event information and last-minute changes.
If you own a smartphone, there are more reasons than ever to add the Pocket Ranger app. You can download it here. Also remember, part of the revenue generated by the mobile app returns to the state parks via the statewide Friends of State Parks.