Nominee – Clare Local Development Company
Outdoor Recreation Digital Management System
Project Implementation Period
With the vision to relate current general disparate and mainly paper based management systems for trails, national parks, mountain access routes and other outdoor recreation sites in Ireland, the project Outdoor Recreation Digital Management System is bound to become the de facto trail management system in Ireland. The system allows both professional trail managers and volunteer community groups to manage trails, mountain access routes, mountains and outdoor recreational sites, as well as to “monitor” the recreational sites via a smartphone app where information is stored and can be used to assign tasks of fixing issues found on the monitoring reports.
Vision, goals and objectives
Utilise technology to implement the best outdoor recreational and environmental site management system to increase efficiency for Managers and a better and safer experience for site users. Relate current general disparate and mainly paper based management systems for trails, national parks, mountain access routes and other outdoor recreation sites. Ensure that multiple bodies, agencies and community groups who are all involved in managing an outdoors recreational site or mountain can use an element of the system but that all these elements will combine to provide an efficient and high preforming management system
- Become the de facto trail management system in Ireland used by state bodies and volunteer recreational site management groups
- Expand system internationally to recreational land managers
- Add citizen science elements to encourage user engagement with recreational site manager
- Further develop system by enhancing current offering and adding additional functionality e.g accessibility management of outdoor sites, landownership base maps
- Complete current trial of system with Coillte (Irish Forestry Service and the biggest owner of outdoor recreation sites in Ireland) and expand use within National Parks and Wildlife Service who manage a number of national parks and associated trails across Ireland.
- Continue to work with Sports Ireland Trails Office to link the system to their national auditing system
- Complete development of “freemeium” section to allow community trail management groups to get the benefits of the system for free
Expected implementation and outcomes
Initial project focused on defined trails and their management. The Burren Geopark spearheaded the project and then it expanded to a national project when the 13 Rural Recreation Officers in Ireland were trained up on using the system (Each Rural Recreation Officer manages the trails in a specific county). The system was then presented to Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council), a council representing the managers of all the outdoor recreational bodies in Ireland and was very favourably received. The system was then rolled out to Coillte and National Parks and Wildlife Service. The system is also being used on two European Innovation Programs – McGillycuddy Reeks EIP (https://www.macgillycuddyreekskerry.com/) and the North Connemara Locally led Agri-Environmental Scheme (https://www.forumconnemara.ie).
A key milestone will be to get trails with multiple landowners and management groups all using the system to give an overall management system for the trail. This is currently in train in Wicklow where The Wicklow Way long distance walking trail’s main management groups (Wicklow Rural Recreation Officer, Coillte and National Parks and Wildlife Service) are all using the system. The plan is to roll this model out to other long-distance trails. The system can also be used to manage whole sites like national Parks or mountain areas like the European innovation Program in Kerry is doing.
Climbing, mountaineering or outdoor sport focus
The system allows both professional trail managers and volunteer community groups to manage trails, mountain access routes, mountains and outdoor recreational sites. The system allows managers and volunteers to “monitor” the recreational sites via a smartphone app and then the monitoring report is uploaded to an internet based dashboard where they are stored and can be used to assign “tasks” of fixing issues found on the monitoring reports. This is relevant for the management of the site to record the work involved and also other connected issues like insurance for landowners i.e if you have a claim you have a digital record of work undertaken on the trails which can be very important if a claim goes to court.
The system is used on specific defined trails (walking and cycling), on access routes to climbing sites and also on a site wide basis ie a whole national park (National Parks and Wildlife, Wicklow) or a whole mountain range (McGillycuddy Reeks in Kerry). The system links in with other local projects like “Digital Photo posts” where trail users can take photo’s using a smartphone using a specially designed smartphone holder and then send them to the trail manager automatically by “tapping” the post using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. This is the same technology that shoppers use to pay by “tapping” their visa card or smartphone. The post is made digital by the addition of a sign with a NFC chip included, these are very efficient and cheap to upgrade a sign (approx. €8 a sign)
Best practice in mountaineering and mountain-based sports for mountain protection
There currently is no designated digital recreational or trail management system in existence. There are a number of GIS programs and surveying apps but no system designed to monitor and manage outdoor recreational sites. Our system takes management from a paper based system widely used to a complete all encompassing management system. It embraces new technology from GPS and camera’s in smartphones to internet of things (IOT) devices into one comprehensive system. Multiple users from multiple organisations can manage their area’s and the system will pull this together into one management hub. Current paper based systems rely on stand alone surveying tools, digital camera’s and paper based report writing. Our system brings all the technology into one system and works on multi platforms i.e android and apple phones and exports to MS Office applications and GIS programs like QGIS and ARCGIS. The all encompassing system is secure and backed up to the cloud so there is no loss of data. All monitoring reports are date and time stamped so you have a digital record of when and where a report was undertaken – this could be important in an insurance claim. The system has included other mountain based auxiliary projects:
The system allows users to log the location of invasive species. It helps with the identification and quantifying the infestation. The basemap will show additional information like watercourses so you can use this to prioritize the addressing of the invasive species – watercourses can spread spores of invasives. Funding has been secured to enhance this element further to manage the invasive species so in addition to the identification and geolocating it will also document the work to eradicate the invasives, it will allow users to record the stages of treatment and manage the progress
The outdoors should be for everyone and the system is adding an assessment tool to review trails, parks and mountain access routes for accessibility. Using a system of drop down menu’s the user can assess a recreational site and then report back if it is accessibly (i.e for wheelchairs or visually impaired)
The system has a number of IOT devices linked into it and is open to add more as needed. Sites have live people counters to measure the flow of trail and recreational site users in a live feed. Reports can be generated showing the “busy” times at sites and via marketing and PR the manager can encourage users to come at a quieter time to reduce the detrimental effect on the site and also for COIVD-19 reasons and crowds. Vehicle counters are also included which help with assessing the capacity and usage of carparks at trail and mountain access points.
Digital recreation site guides
An add on digital outdoor site guide is being developed which will allow outdoor recreation site users to download an app based guide to the site. It will include safety information and guiding (using the smartphone GPS) but all elements to enhance the user experience i.e biodiversity information on the area, local history. All this will be communicated via audio files, photo’s, videos and text.
To discover more about the UIAA Mountain Protection Award please click here.
Please note that the content published in this article is courtesy of the Award nominee. The UIAA has made minor revisions to the original submission.