I have to confess, I love Google Maps, and not just because I’m a map guy. Google Maps is my “go-to” when exploring unfamiliar territory. There’s a reason why Google Maps is the most popular smartphone app. Forget browser searches—it is far more efficient to just type in what you’re looking for into Google Maps, and presto- you have a nice interactive map showing the nearest examples complete with links and (mostly) accurate directions, not only for driving, but also bicycling, public transit and even walking.
However, you may have noticed that the usefulness of Google Maps declines as you get into the Adirondack Park.
Ask Google to give you walking directions from Newcomb to Lake Placid and you’d never know you could hike there via the High Peaks Wilderness. Looking for help from Google maps to find good restaurants in Long Lake? You’ll never discover Flavor’s chocolate croissants or the amazing paninis at the Adirondack Trading Post. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an online map that had these things, but also:
- Recreational facilities (snowmobile trails, lean-tos, rock climbing sites, handicap accessible facilities, etc.)
- Directions for walking, biking, horse-riding or snowmobiling the thousands of miles of Adirondack trails.
- Trail conditions— how about being able to view a map version of John Warren’s weekly Adirondack Backcountry Report on your smartphone?
- Events & activities- zoom to your area of interest and find out what’s happening this weekend, regardless of which town or county its in.
- Other points of interest (historical, cultural, etc.)
It is no surprise that a behemoth like Google wouldn’t know about the hidden secrets of the Adirondacks. One could just sit back and hope for Google to eventually discover these gems, or one could help the process along. Recently I was part of the committee tasked with formulating an Adirondack Park Outdoor Recreation Strategy. There were a lot of different viewpoints represented, but everyone at the table agreed upon the need for Adirondack-specific web portal that would incorporate local knowledge into a site similar to the one I describe above. This site would feature a strong mapping component, rather than the menu/catalog driven approach used by most Adirondack recreation sites such as this and this. The information and interactive maps on this ‘Adirondack Recreational Web Portal’ would be freely available not only to the public, but also to local governments and businesses who do not have the resources to maintain databases and web maps of their own. Specifically, we recommended the development of a
“comprehensive recreational asset inventory and web portal which promotes all recreation assets and events across the Park. Allow regional tourism, local communities and economic development websites to access the inventory and provide a real-time and accurate accounting of the recreational amenities within their districts.”
Now this is a tall order, but you have to dream big, right? And our committee did more than just talk (!)– we helped the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages secure $100,000+ in funding from Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Grants to develop just such a site. Development is underway, and the site is due to be launched by the beginning of next year. This is an exciting development, and I will keep readers posted on the progress, but for now I’d like to highlight the fact that there are some existing websites that attempt to incorporate some of the ideas discussed above. My focus here won’t be on state-wide efforts like the DEC’s State Land Interactive Mapper, or specific sites like this one, but Adirondack-oriented efforts that are broader in scope. (I’m sure I’ve missed some—please share links in the comments!)
The Adirondack Regional Geographic Information System (ARGIS)
I helped develop this site while I was working for SUNY-ESF as part of the DEC-funded “Adirondack Park Regional Geographic Information Systems (APR-GIS) Consortium”. Launched in 2009, the ARGIS portal was designed mostly for land managers, scientists, students and others who needed to not only view mapped data, but also download it for analysis (click the “Download Center” tab above the map). The ARGIS site shows trails, lean-tos and some other recreational data, but also historic maps, maps of invasive species, stream flow, fish inventories, and lake chemistry among others. Unfortunately, the APR-GIS project is on hiatus, so the data is not being updated regularly. ARGIS is also not mobile-friendly and the technology is antiquated and a bit unstable– I still have to restart the server occasionally when it gets overwhelmed.
New York State Summer Recreation Map and Trip Planner
Created by Mowhawk Valley GIS, this site is not exactly Adirondack-specific, but is zoomed to the park extent by default, and most of the layers only show information for the Adirondacks. This site has a nice interface, using more modern technology than ARGIS. As of this writing, many of the layers only have information for portions of the park, namely along the Old Forge-Long Lake corridor.
The “Adirondacks App”
I was excited when I first heard of this app from the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council (ARTC) and downloaded it to my smartphone. However, the app does not utilize your current location, and the mapping functionality was very disappointing. The app divides the Adirondacks into “eight distinct regions, each with its own striking landscape, each with its own striking landscape and unique personality.” Funny thing—when you look at the boundaries of these ‘distinct regions’, they happen to align exactly with county lines! “Adirondack Wild Region”= Hamilton County. “Lake Placid Region”= Essex County. I seriously doubt that most visitors to the park care what county they are in. If you are planning a visit to any village that’s not in the geographic center of a county, the ‘Adirondacks App” forces you to jump around between two or more of these ‘regional’ pages and literally dozens of tabs to find nearby hiking trails, hotels or events. Google Maps works so well precisely because it does NOT make arbitrary divisions such as these, but focuses instead on what the user wants to know: a) where am I?, and b) is there anything of interest nearby? If ARTC took the all information on the ‘Adirondack App’ and turned it into a single, location-driven interactive map, it might be pretty cool!
Interestingly, ARTC is heading up the Recreational Web Portal project for AATV. I’m curious to see what they come up with… stay tuned.