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Virginia State Parks offers free geo-referenced maps with Avenza

Virginia State ParksA new navigational resource for all Virginia State Parks is now available for free through Avenza Maps.

Avenza is a mobile application that utilizes the internal GPS unit of a mobile phone to geo-reference the device’s location on a downloadable PDF map. As a user travels through the park, their location, indicated as a blue dot, moves in real-time on the map.

Mobile devices’ built-in GPS units work even when wireless service is not available. As long as a user’s device maintains battery power, they’ll be able to see their position on the map.

“While the mapping software will clearly improve the visitor experience, it’s already being put to use to improve our land management effectiveness,” said Virginia State Parks Director Dr. Melissa Baker.  “Park staff have used Avenza Maps to mark property boundaries, establish designated hunting zones for managed hunts, mark invasive species locations for removal or treatment, and plan prescribed burns to manage forest health.”

Other facets of park operations, like trail maintenance and visitor safety, will also benefit from the adoption of the software. Trail users can drop a pin if they encounter downed trees or trail obstacles, and provide exact latitude and longitude coordinates in the event of an on-trail emergency.

Year over year, hiking is reported as the No. 1 visitor activity. According to Virginia State Parks’ 2019 Your Comments Count survey, nearly 60% of respondents said they hiked during their visit.

“The trail user experience is where Avenza really shines, especially to first-time visitors,” said Virginia State Parks Western Resource Manager Forrest Atwood. “It’s going to cut down on uncertainty and really make the layout of the park clear.”

The software is intuitive and user-friendly; brief tutorial videos on how to use the application and maps are available through Avenza.

Once the mobile application is installed, users can browse Virginia State Parks Trail Maps and download PDF maps of their favorite parks. Or, they can visit the Avenza store and search for “Virginia State Parks.”

It’s recommended users download the maps at home before visiting the park, but maps can be downloaded anywhere mobile data is available.

Three tiers of the application are available to both Apple and Android users. A free account allows users to download and store an unlimited number of maps from the Avenza store (including all Virginia State Parks maps), while plus and pro accounts incur annual fees, allow unlimited storage of other uploaded maps, and offer more advanced navigational tools.

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