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iPark: Branstad, DNR team up for new outdoor app

Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 11:22 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 11:41 a.m. CST

Are you an Iowan who loves the outdoors? Well, there’s an app for that.

The Iowa Parks Foundation has developed the “Pocket Ranger: Iowa State Parks and Recreation Outdoor Guide,” and recently the state launched a program to better utilize the app.

Gov. Terry Branstad announced the “Healthy and Happy Outdoors (H2O)” program in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. H2O allows users to find more than 30 activities in all of Iowa’s state and county parks and recreation areas.

“As someone who visits all 99 counties in Iowa, I can personally attest to not only the natural beauty of our state but also the tremendous options we have here to find healthy outdoor recreational opportunities no matter where we live,” said Branstad in a release.

H2O was created to help shape a healthier Iowa. A 2012 study by Gallup-Healthways indicated that 29 percent of Iowans were considered obese.

“Our goal is to help Iowans increase mental and physical health through outdoor recreation in Iowa’s natural spaces,” said DNR Director Chuck Gipp in the same release.

The app helps make going outdoors enticing by listing activities, offering rewards for recording your activities and letting users maintain an active log of their activities.

Pocket Ranger is available on iPhone and Android devices and has a current average rating of 4.1 in the Google Play store. There were no ratings available for the Apple version.

Jeff Carpenter gave the Android version of the app a four-star rating.

“This app is very well done. It looks nice and it offers a large amount of content,” Carpenter wrote. “The only issue that I have with the app is that the filter for selecting parks ‘By Activity’ is not robust enough to be useful. It does not allow you to select multiple criteria. In other words, if I am looking for a park that has a RV campground, I cannot select any additional filters. As such, I cannot narrow down my search based on any other activities such a finding a park that has a RV campground and also has fishing.”

The app also specifies numerous activities that can be done right here in Jasper County. Some of the listed activities include:

• Fishing at the South Skunk River Wildlife Area.

• Hiking at Rock Creek State Park.

• Wildlife viewing at Ashton Wildwood Park.

• Paddle sports, such as kayaking and canoeing, at Jacob Krumm Nature Preserve.

• Hunting at the Vandalia Wildlife Area.

Gipp and the DNR have big plans for the app and the H20 program. They want to add more healthy tips, additional activities, and implement more user input.

“Our goal is to have every park in the state listed on this map, but we need Iowans’ help identifying those great outdoor spaces,” Gipp said.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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