GAINESVILLE — With a little technological know-how, Georgia residents and visitors now can electronically find the state parks that match their recreation interests.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has rolled out an interactive map that identifies DNR-managed lands and outdoor recreation opportunities.
The “Georgia Outdoor Map” includes state parks, wildlife management areas, public fishing areas, boat ramps and historic sites. Web users are able to search by category to find locations where they can camp, hunt, hike, fish or explore history.
“With this Web-based tool, users can easily see what types of outdoor recreation are available in all parts of the state,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Williams.
The map can be visited using any device with a Web browser, including desktops, phones and tablets. By checking criteria fields, users can find recreational opportunities, directions, handicapped accessibility, telephone numbers and website links for more details.
Board Chairman Philip Wilheit Jr., a Gainesville resident, helped lead the effort, which began about two years ago.
“We have so much information on our website that it’s extremely hard to get it to the people in a format they can understand and easily navigate,” he said Monday. “We’d love to spend $250,000 on a new website, but that’s just not feasible.”
The state ended up teaming with Google, which “has a huge thirst for geospatial data,” Wilheit said. “And we have the largest amount of geospatial data in any organization in Georgia ... and it’s all public domain information.”
The deal with Google was “we’ll put this information together and get it to you in a usable format if you design an application using your technology for us,” he said.
As part of the effort, DNR sought help from the geosciences department at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
DNR ended up “with a great product, with hardly any money [going] into it,” Wilheit said. “We were very happy with it.
“And from my understanding, this is the first time this has been done in the nation.”
Going through the state’s website, users before could find a list of state parks and links to each park’s website, where they can learn about such things as the park’s accommodations and recreational activities.
Now, through the new map, users can find parks by different categories, such as activities and camping, and then get more information about the parks — as well as a link to the their websites — by clicking on symbols that show up on the map.
The state’s newest park, Don Carter State Park at 5000 N. Browning Bridge Road in north Hall, is prominently featured, as the 1,316-acre park off Lake Lanier features numerous offerings, including camping, boat ramps, fishing, picnicking, playgrounds, hiking and a large swimming beach.
“We think there’s a lot of potential for this [map] to be used in other formats by other agencies,” such as the Georgia Department of Transportation and Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Wilheit said.
“We now have the template for the rest of the state to use.”