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NY State Parks office leverages mobile trail maps to engage visitors

Users can download the mobile Avenza PDF Maps application at no charge at and save it on their iOS- or Android-powered device for use without an Internet connection. Providing the mobile maps is a way to promote the trails by reaching users via a device they have with them almost constantly. 

?Good maps have always been crucial to helping people fully explore and enjoy parks,? said Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the New York State Office of Parks. ?This application delivers park visitors the information they need to their smartphones, which is a mobile format that more and more of visitors are using.
?Visitors going to a park with limited connectivity have the added advantage of downloading the map before they visit, and calling it up when they get to the park,? he said. ?The interactive features answer frequent questions hikers ask themselves on the trail ? how far have I been? How much farther do I have to go??

Plethora of parks
Although the app will work anywhere one can get a GPS signal, Mr. Keefe emphasized that these maps are not intended to be used in wilderness areas such as the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves.

The maps can be used to navigate trails in parks such as Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Yorktown Heights, NY, Betty & Wilbur Davis State Park, Schenevus, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Sleepy Hollow, and Allegany State Park, Salamanca.

Interactive features allow users to show their location, drop waypoints or pinpoints on points of interest, attach images and notes, and track routes, distance and elevation.

The features are not just useful to hikers, but also to people who may be visiting an unfamiliar city, collecting data in the field or simply exploring or getting exercise. 

?You can drop a placemark on a new restaurant you have discovered, a great lookout in a park, or a geocaching location, and even add photos to those placemarks to further enhance the memory,? said Ted Florence, president of Toronto-based Avenza Systems Inc., which developed the Avenza PDF Maps app.

?You can take and share placemarks and photos from specific places to find your way back or get others who may be interested to go there too,? he said. ?You can walk the same track as a friend and see the sights they saw, or use that track they created on a ride or jog as a challenge.?

Unconnected maps
Demand is growing for maps that can function without an Internet connection. Streaming maps services such as Google Maps, Apple Maps and Bing Maps require a data connection.

Avenza homepage.

"As electronic map use continues to grow through the use of smart devices, handheld GPS units and in-car navigation systems, and the consumption of other media such as music, video and books continues its massive migration to electronic consumption through the likes of iTunes and Kindle, it seems only natural that the map industry should follow,? Mr. Florence said.

?By offering heretofore paper map products as intelligent digital versions, publishers such as New York State Parks, National Geographic and countless others can now address the demand for their maps on personal electronic platforms and in so doing effectively embrace the digital age for their products, save money on printing and distribution and be ?green? all at the same time," he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.