Parks Forward

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Parks Forward this past week announced a neat new app – “CaliParks” – for those wanting to explore and share the wonderful parks in California. Want to discover what’s happening in parks across California, find places where you can do everything from camping to climbing to playing basketball, plan a trip, share images and comments, and invite friends to join you? Now there’s an app for that.

“CaliParks” is California’s first park finder application covering every park in the state—11,826 parks in all. Combining data from the California Protected Areas Database, GreenInfo Network, and Hipcamp, with social media content from Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, and Foursquare, and linking to trip planner technology from Apple and Google, the bilingual CaliParks is launching this week in conjunction with a report from Parks Forward, an independent commission, that calls for increased use of technology to connect Californians with their parks. While still undergoing testing and refinement, this first version is accessible through any browser on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop at, the web-based app draws on social media from more than half-a-million users to create an incredibly diverse, accessible, and welcoming way to discover California’s parks.

“This is a wonderful new tool that will help connect Californians with their parks in a new and exciting way,” says Resources Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird. “California has always been on the cutting edge when it comes to technology, and CaliParks keeps up that tradition.”

“CaliParks is just what we need to engage Californians with all of our great parks, especially diverse, technologically adept, and socially connected users,” says Parks Forward Commissioner Michael Woo, dean of the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona. “We tested the app on a diverse group of students at Cal Poly and they took to it immediately. We could hardly keep them in their seats. They wanted to get outdoors and share it with their friends.”

“Park users have long shared their experiences using social media, and for the first time, these stories and images come together in a single app,” says Jon Christensen, a UCLA professor and partner in Stamen Design, which built the application. “Our new park finder app—CaliParks—taps these existing conversations to create a welcoming invitation to all Californians— especially the state’s diverse, technologically adept and socially connected millennial generation, to discover where they can do the things they want to do in parks, nearby or far away, today or tomorrow, or whenever they want to get outdoors. Over time, this tool is also designed with the flexibility to evolve its engagement with users in supporting the future of parks in California.”

With CaliParks, visitors can use the interactive, responsive, mobile-friendly, browser-based app to discover their next adventures, share their experiences, and enlarge conversations and build communities around parks, says Christensen.

CaliParks was developed by San Francisco-based Stamen Design, a leading data visualization firm with interdisciplinary expertise in mapping, social media, user experience, open data, and public policy, together in collaboration with GreenInfo Network, Hipcamp, and Latino Outdoors, with support from the Resources Legacy Fund. The team and the California Department of Parks and Recreation will continue to test and refine CaliParks over the next year.

Driven by a user-centered approach to design, Stamen carried out extensive research into social media and user experiences in parks and engaged in targeted user testing throughout the state. The result is an inclusive and dynamic platform that lets users find parks—local, regional, state, and national parks—through their activity-specific offerings

“The beauty of the application is its simplicity,” notes Eric Rodenbeck, CEO of Stamen Design. “Drawing on best practices from industry giants like Yelp! and Airbnb, CaliParks’ easy-to-navigate search and filter features are designed to respond to the interests and needs of today’s park goers and empower users to discover their own unique park experiences.”

The app is bilingual — in English and Spanish — and incorporates activities data for 816 state, national, and regional parks, as well as all 5,447 urban parks in the state to ensure that users can access and share a diverse range of park experiences.

By filtering social media through the lens of California’s parks, CaliParks also offers park agencies new opportunities for discovering how the public is already using their parks and fostering engagement with new communities across the state. As social media conversations about parks evolve, the site evolves as well, regularly harvesting the latest images and social check-ins to show how Californians are sharing their park experiences.