Technology Opportunities in the Outdoors

Examples of Opportunities to Apply Technology to Outdoor Recreation

  1. Scenic Byways Virtual Tours: as you “fly” over a high-resolution aerial photograph on your computer screen, an audio narration describes the corridor and icons of key features – from trails to campgrounds to museums to boat ramps – appear. Clicking on any of the icons brings up detailed information and visual images – and even allows actions such as making a campground reservation. Go to for a demonstration.

  2. Trail and River Virtual Tours: the same concept as above, applied to trails and rivers and other corridors.

  3. Webcams to provide real-time information on weather, foliage conditions, crowding, etc. Webcams are widely used by ski areas and are newly available for key national park sites.

  4. PDA field guides to trees, flowers, wildlife downloaded for specific areas/sites: a 21st century adaptation of favorite printed guides. Santa Monica Mountains NRA and the Discovery Channel are working on a pilot of this concept.

  5. GPS-triggered interpretation on DVDs/CDs

  6. Downloadable up-to-the minute maps showing key features and restrictions (fires, motorized/mechanical activities, permits required, overnight camping, etc.)

  7. Geo-caching: using GPS units to find hidden objects (and using the communications links vital to geo-caching to prevent disturbances of sensitive areas and to promote a cache-in/trash-out ethic). See

  8. Wildlife- and bird-watching databases (recording of observations by date/time/ location with GPS units and organized into GIS to provide visitor guidance on likely opportunities)

  9. Software that integrates photos and sound clips with GPS-identified locations to create electronic trip tales

  10. Wireless transmission of interpretive data to vehicles, phones and PDAs

  11. Downloadable multi-lingual interpretive programs for PDAs at public lands portals

  12. Multi-lingual CDs offered at entry points to key federal areas (sponsored by non-profit or for-profit partners) with interpretive information, safety and other information to be played in private vehicles driving through public lands

  13. Audible and visual warnings through GPS units and GPS-enabled PDAs when crossing into zones with key restrictions (temporary or permanent), including fires, motorized/mechanical travel restrictions, etc. (rough analogy to invisible fences for pets)

  14. IR systems along heavily used trails to allow “talking trees” (analogy to museums)

  15. GPS units that can record travel during a visit and then be downloaded into a GIS system that can produce a map-based souvenir depiction of the visit, with information on distance traveled, ascent/descent information and more

  16. Websites that use visuals (and especially video clips) to catalyze visits

  17. Training classes at federal recreation sites on use of GPS, digital cameras, etc., and availability of rentals of needed equipment via permittees/concessioners

  18. Downloadable tours for GPS units and GPS-enabled PDAs, especially for cultural and historic sites, that direct visitors without the cost and impact of signs, allow customization of tours, and can direct visitors away from threatened and overused sites

  19. Integration of passes and mini-CDs into one item, giving the pass added value

  20. Downloadable and unique “souvenirs” at key physical sites – such as photos or electronic postcards – which would be collected by avid outdoors enthusiasts

    Source: American Recreation Coalition (developed for Partners Outdoors 2004), 1/3/04