The Backpage — Review: Warner Parks iPhone app is lost in the woods

Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 12:12pm
By Skip Anderson, City Paper correspondent
122412 Warner Parks App main.jpg

With the help of Friends of Warner Parks and BDY Environmental LLC, the state’s two largest municipal parks now have a toehold in the smartphone age.

Natural Areas, a free iPhone app with a strangely broad name, is dedicated to conveying the attributes of the famously hilly Percy Warner Park and its lowland companion across Old Hickory Boulevard, Edwin Warner Park. This is a tall order, given the extensive offerings in the parks’ combined 2,684 acres along Highway 100 in the southwest quadrant of Davidson County.

This ambitious app tries to do a lot, sometimes to its detriment. Many of the links take the user to either a bevy of submenus, such as “About Warner Parks,” which contains some of the app’s best content, or to screens full of text where one might reasonably expect short passages supported by graphics or photographs. For instance, the “Tree Identification” page — easily overlooked three levels deep within the overview of the parks’ hiking trails — offers heady descriptions about acorns and leaves without the support of photographs or drawings. Several clicks away in another section entirely, one can find the common names of the trees listed along with their Latin names. These too are void of supporting images, as are sections titled “Common Mushroom” and “Common Ferns.” Perhaps in future releases of the app, these sections will follow that of the “Common Wildflower,” which is supported by links to a corresponding Wikipedia page complete with helpful images.

Likewise, with so many offerings within the parks targeting golfers, star gazers, field sports participants, equine enthusiasts, picnickers, bird watchers, arborists, dog walkers, etc., the “News & Events” section will likely be heavily used feature. However, as of press time, one must scroll through outdated events from October and November to get to current and future events.

The “Trails” submenu offers helpfully brief descriptions of what a hiker might expect to encounter — trail length, level of exertion required to complete the hike, and useful cautions to consider. However, notably absent are links to trail maps, location of trailheads or information on where to park. This information and a great deal more, however, is available three clicks away within the app’s useful topographic “Interactive Map.” The user’s location within the park is readily available in real time within the interactive map, by way of the iPhone’s GPS capability. Impressively, through a driving tour of the two parks’ peaks and valleys, the iPhone used in testing signal strength never lost its AT&T connection, even in Percy Warner’s Deep Wells valley or in the back of Edwin Warner Park along the banks of the Little Harpeth River.

Based in Hillsboro Village, BDY Environmental LLC previously released two other iPhone apps — GSM Wildflowers and Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains & the Southern Appalachians.

The new app is free, so there is no reason for iPhone users not to take it along on their next jaunt to the parks — just don’t expect too much. An Android version is reportedly in development.

1 Comment on this post:

By: HamBoneHamBone on 12/28/12 at 9:46

What a joke. A metro area of 1.5 million people and all of the accompanying development, and in one of the few undisturbed natural places within the city, apparently people feel they need to take their smartphone and GPS. Really? Any adult who finds himself lost in Warner Park DESERVES to be lost. I've lived in the mountains - real mountains with real wilderness where the necessity of a GPS is still debatable. PEOPLE, YOU GO INTO THE WOODS TO GET AWAY FROM MODERN CONVENIENCES. Are Nashvillians so soft that they need a GPS and a smartphone in tiny little metro park? How stultifying and civically embarrassing.