It’s Pokémon Go, but for nature: State park offers way to explore using smartphone
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s a new way to explore Steamboat Lake State Park’s trails using a smartphone.
The application, Agents of Discovery, is similar to Pokémon Go, but instead of chasing after animated characters, gamers use augmented reality to learn about the natural world.
The application uses a phone’s camera and GPS to explore the area around them by completing missions. There are currently missions at Steamboat Lake and nine other state parks, as well as at the Stillwater Campground near Lake Granby and on or near Colorado’s 14ers. The application is free and available via the Apple App and Google Play stores.
At Steamboat Lake, the current mission, “Wildlife Detective,” guides users through activities to identify bird songs, tracks and other signs of wildlife. It begins at the park’s visitor’s center and follows the Tombstone Nature Trail. As you walk the trail using the application, users can find interactive challenges that will help them learn about wildlife. Once you complete a mission, you can head to the visitor’s center to receive a small prize.
“There are questions about how do you identify what type of wildlife are here?” said Julie Arington, park manager of Steamboat Lake State Park. “How do you know when wildlife was here? What kind of wildlife are you going to see in Steamboat Lake?”
Arington said content is appropriate for kids of all ages and curious grown-ups, too, though younger kids might need an adult’s assistance working through activities.
She hopes it helps visitors gain an appreciation and understanding of nature.
She wants it to create a connection, “especially for kids, so they’re excited to come outside and learn and enjoy their time when they’re out there,” she said. “Hopefully, that will assist in their lifelong building of a sense of stewardship and connection with the outside.”
Right now, Arington said you might need snowshoes to complete the activities, though it’s intended to be appropriate for the autumn season. The mission will change seasonally, so when winter really hits, there will be snowy missions to complete.
She realizes using phones in the outdoors “isn’t for everyone” but suggests it for those who it might add “another layer of enjoyment of the outdoors.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s use of the application is grant-funded, Arington said. The agency plans to use the program for a year to gather information and feedback on whether or not people like it. If it gets positive reviews, Colorado Parks and Wildlife could offer missions in other area parks, she said.
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