The state parks system has launched a free mobile phone application that gives visitors on-the-go access to park and campground maps as well as details about facilities, events and other information.
In addition to the free version for iPods, iPhone and Android smart phones, a "pro" version costing $3.99 a year offers detailed topographic maps complete with GPS navigation that shows where you are in the park. The paid version currently is available only for the iPod and iPhone, but an Android version is expected soon.
The Pocket Ranger Mobile Tour Guide should enhance visitor safety, since the maps are downloaded ahead of time and therefore are accessible when cell phone service isn't available, said Charlie Peek, a spokesman for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
At the same time, the parks system expects to save money by printing fewer maps. That's already been the trend in recent years as more and more people print their own maps from the park system's website, said Peek.
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The Pocket Ranger app contains all the information on the parks system's website. The app was developed for the state by ParksByNature Network, a New York company that is working with state park systems across the country, said Peek.
The state paid ParksByNature nothing. Instead, it developed the app for free in exchange for a 40 percent slice of the revenue generated by the pro version, said Peek.
The state parks and the nonprofit Friends of State Parks will equally share the rest of the revenue.