OCEAN COUNTY, NJ — Parks throughout Ocean County have seen significantly more people hiking on trails and gathering outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many local residents visited Ocean County's parks for the first time, while other groups traveled from as far as Philadelphia and North Jersey seeking outdoor leisure, according to Mary Jane Bavais, assistant director of Ocean County Parks and Recreation.
Though trails are marked, first time hikers have struggled to find their way back and have ended up lost in the woods on several occasions.
“Some trails are a half-mile loop and then there are others that are more challenging,” Bavais said. “If you’re not used to it and you’re not used to where you are, people panic.”
A new trail tracker app released by Ocean County Parks and Recreation is designed to help visitors navigate the trails and increase their safety.
The trail tracker functions like a GPS and can pinpoint people’s location throughout Ocean County’s 27 parks and conservation areas. The interactive app can also provide visitors with a map of the trail and their latitude and longitude coordinates.
The tracker can be accessed through this link or by scanning the QR code below:
“We’ve always had maps, but as we know people forget to take a map. They’ll come in and just start walking, and go right past the trail maps and get on to the trail,” Bavais said. “By pulling up the QR code they can easily find their way back.”
Ocean County Parks and Recreation used a different tracker system in previous years, though it lacked the longitude and latitude feature.
The latest app was launched as a beta version and the department is actively seeking feedback about it from park visitors. Comments about the app and its user experience can be sent to OCParks@co.ocean.nj.us.
“This is a better system and easy for the public to use,” Bavais said. “This is really all about their safety. Our staff can find them in a flash, but this way they don’t have to make that 911 call.”
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