Pictured: Those odd, squiggly QR codes can link you to the MLTS site from 85 sign around town. (Photo: Geisel)/
Taking a tour of a website seems a bit incongruous. You don’t really go anywhere. Or do you? After all, this isn’t just any website we’re talking about, it’s the Mammoth Lakes Trail System site, which is ready to launch in conjunction with the Grand Opening Celebration of the Trail System, this Saturday, Oct. 20.
My tour guide of the site wasn’t just anybody. In fact, it was no less than Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access CEO John Wentworth, who has been a major driving force behind the trail system’s improvements, and also this site, which went live in early September, and will allow users to use QR codes to enhance their experiences on the Mammoth Lakes Trail System.
The site and its content thus far has been what Wentworth said was the result of extensive collaboration between a number of agencies and user groups, not just MLTPA. Also involved: the Town of Mammoth Lakes, the U.S. Forest Service and Mammoth Lakes Tourism, among others. “We wanted maximum collaboration to make sure we had the content in place,” he elaborated. “Lots of deliberation went into it, all the way down to consensus names for all the trails and destinations.”
Many pages can be cross-linked with “experience providers,” entities or individuals who sponsor pages. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, Eastside Velo and Footloose, to name a few, have already jumped on board. The site will also be able to accommodate “Adopt-A-Trail” partners, once the program is in place.
Happy Trails …
Click on the Trails section, for example, which includes 28 trail pages so far, with a pretty complete list of lengths, surfaces, photos in albums or slideshows (a feature common to most pages), and unique, well-researched descriptions by noted local outdoor writer David Page. Mapping is tied in to Google Maps, and includes an interactive elevation profile, that changes as the user moves the cursor along the trail. Also included are links to driving directions and public transit options, also using Google Maps, and lists of public services and other amenities, where applicable.
Trail updates will be added to highlight certain time- or topic-sensitive features, such as fall colors, seasonal closures and other helpful hints.
Navigate to the Destinations section, which features 55 Destination pages, which shows attractions to visit, such as the Hayden Cabin Museum and (at least for now) the Whitmore Pool.
The Activities section features 19 winter and summer activity options, everything from biking to wildflower viewing, each with an equipment and supplies checklist and recommended durations to prepare for the excursion of your choice.
Got an experience to share (an “experience” being a piece of infrastructure like a trail, a USFS road or a bike lane and an activity)? A “Call for Action” option will put you in touch with the Experience development team where your “experience” can be further developed for possible inclusion on the site. All of the Activities include “featured experiences.”
“It’s really very deep,” Wentworth said of the site’s page layout architecture and content. “It starts simply, but when you start drilling down into the thing, there’s a lot of stuff!” The site even utilizes UTAP (Universal Trail Assessment Process) information for people with disabilities and adaptive options for those users.
Weather information is provided by a link to the government’s federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, site.
“We need to bring people to [the site], because it makes sense to leverage our [recreation] resources,” Wentworth opined. “With this evolutionary site, we can exhibit the unique outdoor recreation opportunities available here in Mammoth to the entire world.
“A visitor asks: what do I want do in this beautiful Eastern Sierra? And how do I do it? Visit here, engage with the landscape, have a great experience … We’re going to help you do it!”
Scheduled for the future are up to 13 more Activities pages, 40 more Trails pages, 12 more Destinations, 100 more Experiences and 24 interpretive pages with QR content. Currently 85 MLTS signs around town have individual QR codes (those funny-looking symbols smartphone users can scan). Audio and video narrations and informative content will be added to the interpretive content for the interpretive signs as part of future content efforts.
Smart, responsive design
Social media is naturally a facet, with links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. The site is built using what’s called “responsive design,” which recognizes the platform the user is using and automatically reformats the site to work on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.
The site uses existing “open source” technology, and includes no expensive custom or proprietary software. It’s also intentionally built with minimal management needs. As Wentworth cited, there are no blogs or open forum components that would require a lot of policing of public comments.
“The best part: it’s not an app. Nothing on the site costs the user anything; it’s all free,” Wentworth enthused.
Currently the site needs a web master and a content management program. Wentworth said he’s waiting on a contract for MLTPA to manage those aspects of the site. The Mammoth Lakes Trail System Coordinating Committee has recommended a contract amount, which will go before Town Council soon for deliberation.
Test drive the site at www.mammothtrails.org.