One of the most recently debated questions in the NPS is, Should parks have WiFi access? My initial inclination is to say “No!” because that is one of the reasons national parks exist; to experience life without distraction, to see a landscape with minimized modification.  However, I had to rethink my answer based on one observation from last weekend.  Three busloads of college students were on my Saturday morning hike at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, but all I could really see were selfie sticks and photo-ops crowding the trail.  My generation is redefining the meaning of experiencing new places.  It’s through technology.

Which makes sense why on days other than the grand tours I blog about, I spend most of my time at my computer.  My most recent project has been to research how my office can use trail data to help the public experience the trails we administer.  One of the newest methods of helping people experience the trail is by creating story maps.  Story maps are almost self-defining; they tell more of a story than just a visual map.  I have seen really good story maps include varied types of multimedia and user interactivity to create a new experience of a certain place, groups of places, or objects on a map.

Unlike national parks, national trails don’t have one specific welcome center that has all the information about the trail experience.  Most of the trails that my office administers are on private land, so it means that sites and visitor centers are only thanks to local towns, associations, or private owners.  Our trails office helps in creating road signage to direct drivers along historic trails and they also help create literature like interpretive markers, brochures, guides and online planning sites to help travelers plan their trip along the trail. Printed brochures and guides are hard to come by if not near a trail which means information is only conveniently accessible through internet.  I am currently making an example of how the Across Nevada Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide can be converted into an interactive story map, making the guide more useful and accessible to the changing generation.

I cannot post the story map I am working on to the public just yet, but here is an example of a story map if you’re interested! I found this map during my research  and found out that one of our interns had been here before! (Look closely at what Gibrán is standing on in his profile picture on the meet the interns page.  Yes, I found you Gibrán!)