Friday, March 08, 2013

A Park in the Walk

About a decade ago, I was involved in helping to develop management plans for parks and open space in my town. One of the biggest surprises for me was the importance of providing for the parking of cars in such spaces. After all, we were trying to protect space for walking, wildlife, water protection, and the like, so automobiles seemed a strange thing to worry about.

A key goal, however, was ensuring that people would actually have the opportunity to get to know the parks so that they could better value all the other things we were trying to do with the land. Bicycling in our town -- like most others in our region -- is fairly dangerous and General Motors saw to it that trolleys were ripped out decades ago. Most people do not own horses any more, and only a few of our parks are accessible by canoe. For parks more than a brief walking distance from someone's home, therefore, parking the car is an essential part of enjoying nature.

I was reminded of this when I went online to plan an anniversary hike on part of the Appalachian Trail with my sweetheart. She had recently read a book about the AT, and we decided we should go back on the trail! We did quite a bit of hiking when we lived in Arizona, and we like to walk in parks near home now. But real hiking lately has been limited to my Nicaragua study tours.

One of the first things I found on the interactive map provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy was the availability of parking. In addition to identifying parking spots for two different segments to hike on the weekend, I was able to go online to reserve a Zipcar to serve as our shuttle, to let a friend know we would be stopping by her roastery before the hike, and to inquire about lodging options.

After the hike, not only will I be able to blog about it, I will be able to log about it. That is, I will be able to post a video showing our exact path -- including an elevation profile -- thanks to the wonders of GPS.

How things have changed! The last time I was on the Appalachian Trail itself, incidentally, my buddy (and fellow geographer) Mike and I used paper maps only. "Online" was not yet an option, and hardly even a word.

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