Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

April 12, 2013

Smartphone app focuses on region's outdoor activities

TRAVERSE CITY — Treenen Sturman knows firsthand there’s no shortage of outdoor activities in the Grand Traverse region.

But the executive director of the Grand Traverse Conservation District also knows the sheer volume of places to hike, paddle, ski or swim can be daunting for newcomers to the area like himself, especially when they search online.

“There’s so many websites to go to,” he said.

Sturman hopes a new smartphone app called “Experience 231” will help. Seven environmental groups spent about a year producing the app, which was developed by Lake Effect Associates. It will be available in soft release May 1 for Apple and Android phones, and fully active May 19.

The program lets users choose their activity — hiking, biking, paddling, swimming, snowshoeing or birding — and helps them find the best fit among 300 free local outdoor experiences. It also narrows the results by time or special considerations like disabilities, equipment rental or pets.

For example, those looking to take a two-hour hike with their dog can input that criteria and get results listed by proximity, using the phone’s GPS.

Lake Effect Associates owner Jonathan Campbell said seven environmental groups vetted all of the information for accuracy.

“I think the really unique part is all the groups pulling together,” he said.

Sturman said the app may help spotlight new destinations and reduce some of the wear and tear on some better-known natural areas in the five-county Grand Traverse region.

“We were deliberate about selecting places that are underutilized and can take a little more,” he said. “(The) idea is to spread people out across the landscape. This is one of the absolute best places to visit in the country if you want to experience the outdoors.”

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