Wash. State Parks launches mobile app

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is celebrating its Centennial on March 19 by launching the Pocket Ranger, the first Official Washington State Parks Smartphone app.

The free app is available for both iPhone and Android devices, and provides an on-the-go interactive guide for park goers, nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It gives users access to more than 100 state parks, historic sites and campgrounds with detailed information, amenities, facility maps and directions.

Visitors can search for a park by GPS location or activity and find nearby locations for hiking, camping, boating, birding and more. Once visitors are in parks, advanced GPS and GIS mapping technology allows them to track and record trails, mark waypoints, locate friends within the parks and enjoy GeoChallenge activities and games. Users can even cache GPS maps in advance to ensure navigation remains possible in the event of lost mobile reception.

The app provides plenty of other features to maximize visitors’ outdoor adventures, including educational information, amenities, maps and directions; real-time calendar of events; news, advisories and weather alerts; social networking and photo sharing; potentially life-saving alert feature; and advanced GPS mapping features.

State Parks is collaborating with ParksByNature Network to provide this free service to the public. To download the app, visit iTunes or Android Market. No state funds were used to develop the new app. ParksByNature Network locates sponsors to underwrite development of the app for the state park systems it serves.

The new app is part of Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission’s strategy to expand the use of technology to provide meaningful visitor services and to market the park system. Technology advancement is one component of a larger strategy being considered by the commission to guide the park system in the next few years. The new app aims to ensure people continue to choose state parks for their recreation.

The Washington Legislature created the State Board of Park Commissioners on March 19, 1913, mainly to accept citizen donations of park lands. Larrabee State Park was the first official state park. In 1919, State Parks had 26 acres, and by 1929 had grown to include 8,000 acres. Today, the state park system includes 117 developed parks and other properties, altogether totaling more than 110,000 acres and drawing nearly 40 million visits a year. There are state parks in almost every county of the state and within an hour’s drive of most Washingtonians’ homes.

Centennial 2013 events and activities will be available in parks all over the state throughout 2013. Visit parks.wa.gov/events/ for details.