The Department of Environmental Protection today launched a new mobile phone application to help visitors plan for and make the most out of their trips to New Jersey’s state parks, forests and historic sites.
The free Pocket Ranger application provides information on activities, amenities and services directly to users’ smartphones, and is part of the Christie Administration’s plan to make the park system more self-sustaining while improving visitor services.
The version of the application compatible with Apple iPhones was launched today. The Android- compatible version will be launched in several days. The applications can be downloaded at www.StateParkApps.com
“We are very proud to offer this new service to the public,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “New Jersey’s park system is second to none and has been experiencing record numbers of visitors in recent years. This application gets us in step with the times, making it much easier for people to plan their visits to our wonderful parks, forests and historic sites and make decisions about what to see and do once they get there.”
With a few taps of the screen, visitors can use their smartphones to find overviews, directions, operating hours and activities available at various sites managed by the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry. Visitors can also fine-tune their searches by looking for activities that interest them, such as hiking, bicycling, swimming, fishing, boating, canoe rentals or winter activities.
“With a broad tapestry of rolling green hills, forests, beaches, historic villages and battlefields, and vast natural beauty, New Jersey’s parks offer exceptional outdoor recreation for the entire family,” said Grace Hanlon, Executive Director of the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism. “Through this fun and exciting app, our residents and visitors will have another great tool in their hands to make their trips even more enjoyable and memorable.”
Governor Christie and Commissioner Martin recently released the Administration’s long-term strategy for keeping New Jersey’s parks open, affordable and even more accessible. The plan establishes a model for parks to generate revenues to make them more self-sustaining while making the park experience more rewarding for millions of visitors by improving visitor services, amenities and activities.
The DEP will receive a portion of advertising revenues generated by the application, which is not costing anything for the department to implement.
“This new ParksByNature application is a first step in the major overhaul and modernization of how we operate and protect our parks,” said DEP Chief Project Advisor Lou Valente. “This app will provide immediate benefits to our visitors while providing the DEP with information that we will use to continue to improve the park experience for millions of visitors.”
The state park system encompasses 440,000 acres in all 21 counties, and includes more than 50 historic sites, historic battlefields and villages, and 39 active recreation areas with year-round operations. The park system also boasts more than 500 miles of hiking and riding trails and 10 miles of ocean beaches.
Pocket Ranger can help visitors make lodging reservations, has social networking capabilities, and provides an advanced map-caching feature that allows users to continue to navigate even if mobile service is lost. In addition, advanced GPS technology allows hikers to keep track of where they are and how far they’ve hiked. The same technology enables hunters and anglers to mark favorite hunting spots and fishing holes.
The application also has a Friend Finder feature that allows users to keep track of the location of friends and family. As an added safety feature, Pocket Ranger has an alert feature that notifies select contacts of your GPS coordinates in the event of an emergency.
“Our expectation is for the Pocket Ranger Mobile Tour Guide to encourage a new generation of park goers explore and discover all that New Jersey’s state parks have to offer,” said ParksByNature co-founder and program coordinator Brett Melillo. “This robust mobile app will not only enhance the visitors’ experience, but will also renew overall interest in New Jersey parks and raise the funds needed to preserve and sustain them. It’s a win for the state parks and a win for the people of New Jersey.”
New Jersey is the ninth state to make the mobile tour guide application available to the public. The others are Pennsylvania, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Missouri, Rhode Island and South Dakota.