Ever try to find directions for a Westchester County park or trail online, but gave up because there was nothing clear available? Tired of lugging around map books?
Well, there is now an app for that.
Friends of Westchester County Parks announced the launch of the Westchester County Parks Pocket Ranger mobile app, a free on-the-go interactive guide for park goers, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts Thursday at the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla. Westchester County is the first county parks system to develop the app
The app, which was developed by was developed by ParksByNature Network, was created ed using a $25,000 grant from Friends of Westchester County Parks and a partnering grant from Fujifilm, whose USA Corporation headquarters are located in Valhalla.
“This new app will expand the use of technology to provide information for visitor services and it will also help to market the park system,” said Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, chairwoman of Friends of Westchester County Parks. “It’s important to note that introducing and incorporating technology has been part of our major initiative of the Friends of Westchester County for many years and this is just adding to that legacy.”
Users of the program may be happy to see that there is a strong GPS component, with a 3-in-1 “Explore” search feature that will allow them to find parks based on proximity, activities offered or the type of destination they want. There is also a “Nearest Me” function that lists all of the parks in the county relative to the user’s location.
There are also icons for Facebook and Twitter, so users can access social media, and a news icon that tracks Facebook and Twitter feeds for Friends of Westchester County Parks and Westchester County Parks. Park passes can also be purchased and there is also an “Events” icon that allows users to get an up-to-date look at the county parks calendar.
Also, for the more adventurous users out there, there is a GPS feature that lets user record the routes they take while hiking.
“I know longer have to to drop bread crumbs or nick a tree when I’m in the woods, trying to find a path,” said Rich Dubi, chief executive officer of the ParksByNature Network. “I can just hit the record button and a flag comes up. It will now track our entire way points, whether we’re biking, hiking, driving cycling, whatever form of transportation.”
There is also an alert button that sends out text messages emergency officials that contain the longitude and latitude of where the distress came from.
The project started about six months ago during a meeting board members of Friends of Westchester Parks had with the ParksByNature Network. Although apps had been developed for state park systems across the country, none had been developed for a county park system, Thompson said.
Thompson said Friends of Westchester County Parks stepped forward to donate the first $25,000 needed to complete the project. But the program wouldn’t have been completed unless Fujifilm stepped forward with grant to help complete the project.
“Fujifilm has long been a supporter of Westchester County Parks as part of our global commitment to sustainability, and we are constantly seeking ways to be more innovative in our business,” Shig Sano, president of Fujifilm Holdings America Corp., said in a statement. “This mobile application project is the perfect blend of innovation and environmental awareness that helps improve the surrounding community in which we work and live.”
Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino thanked Fujifilm and Friends of Westchester Park for bringing the app onboard at no cost to the taxpayer. He believes the app will serve as a tremendous learning tool for the county park system.
“The amazing thing is that it’s not just for adults,” Astorino said. “My kids have their iPod touch and everything else where they can download apps and it’s great because kids can download and learn about the parks system and take advantage of it.”Plans are being developed to create a mobile website so users of Blackberrys and feature phone users can access the Pocket Ranger.