Talk to Cathy Stepp, the secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, and she’ll reassure you of two things in nearly everyone’s DNA in her home state: a love for the Green Bay Packers and a love of the great outdoors.
That second one is especially key to Stepp’s job atop the agency responsible to protect the state’s natural resources while also helping the state’s citizens enjoy them. To help do that, the agency recently updated its hunting and fishing application with a number of new features, including enhanced social features.
“We wanted to communicate with people the way they communicate with one another,” Stepp said. “We are taking a bold approach to how we connect with the citizens and pushing to make sure we are up to speed with what they need.”
Wisconsin first released its Parks and Forests Pocket Ranger App last November and saw more than 40,000 downloads in the first 10 months. Working with the Wisconsin Interactive Network, an NIC affiliate, the state added some new features to the application for a recent update.
One of the most interesting is the a social networking and a photo and video sharing feature called “Friend Finder,” which allows companions to keep track of each other on a trail or at a park or forest.
The social media aspect has already worked wonders for the federal government’s Interior Department, something that Wisconsin wants to capitalize on as well.
“We want to make it easier for people to share the experiences they have in our parks or during their hunts,” Stepp said. “We want them to show themselves enjoying what they are doing along with capturing the beautiful scenery of our state that will encourage other people to take advantage of it as well.”
The app includes descriptions of each park, forest and trail, along with what amenities it offers and maps and directions. It includes an advanced GPS mapping feature that will locate the closest state properties and allow users to take GPS tours, record trail distances and time elapsed and mark photo waypoints.
It also features a real-time calendar of events, allowing users to search by property, date and type of event.
Forests Pocket Ranger was launched through a public-private partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the state’s portal partner, Wisconsin Interactive Network.