Baltimore County officials unveiled a new Trail Finder Web site application Wednesday morning at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Oella, as part of an effort to promote exercise and an active lifestyle among county residents.
The application can be accessed through the county website at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/trailfinder under the Parks and Recreation section of the site. It features a countywide map of walking sites, and is searchable by zip code, community name and site name.
A description of each site is offered and trail maps are downloadable in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) and can be viewed on smart phone devices, explained Williams during a presentation of the application.
The 80 sites include county parks; public school recreation centers; city reservoir lands; state parks and natural environment areas; and shopping malls. Most don't require user fees.
"We're really merging technology and health," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told a small group inside the museum, "The best part is that, unlike a gym, there are no fees associated with this Trail Finder app."
The launch of the application corresponds with July's designation as National Park and Recreation Month by the National Recreation and Parks Association.
"The theme for National Parks and Recreation Month is 'out is in', and our new Trail Finder gives families a great tool to find a nice place near their home to enjoy nature and exercise together," said Barry Williams, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.
"Each map provides not only the proposed walking path, but the length that you walk, so you really will get the sense of where you need to go," Kamenetz said to the group.
Williams said shopping malls were included for those who need Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible buildings.
The application took two years to develop, which involved gathering information about different trails, determining their length and building it, said Williams after the presentation. Williams could not provide an exact figure of the amount it took to develop the application.
It was a collaboration between the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, Office of Information Technology and Baltimore County Health Coalition, and there are plans for expansion, Williams said.
Williams said during a visit to Riverview Elementary School, a Title 1 school with a higher percentage of low-income students, he was struck by a number of children weren't participating in exercise activities and didn't take advantage of the parks and recreation programs.
"We have all these parks and we need to let people know that they're available for free," Williams said.
Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville, Arbutus and Lansdowne, is a supporter of expanding walking and biking in the area.
"Not only does it promote health and keep us in good shape," he said. "But I'm a firm believer that if we have walking and biking trails, it attracts a lot of people to this area that want those things, especially a lot of young homebuyers that are coming in."