A new website unveiled this week by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation uses its mission of “Conservation, Education, Recreation” as the starting point for unlocking new content for visitors to state parks.
The website, which can still be accessed at ncparks.gov, counts among its new features a one-click map of state parks and a “Find a Park Catalog” that will allow users to filter by activity, region, facilities and more.
There will also be a new guide with details about pets, fees, family-friendly activities and accessibility, and it will be more user-friendly on mobile devices.
We talked to a spokesperson for NC Parks to learn about some of the new features.
Revamp great for bird watchers, hikers & more
Katie Hall, a spokesperson for the NC Parks department, highlighted some of the website upgrades:
• The website is mobile-first. Over 65% of users access the Parks website through their cell phones, Hall said. Now, instead of the website being mobile-friendly, it’s mobile-preferred.
• It’s activity-focused, so you know where to go to have the best time.
“We’ve found people know what they want to do, but they don’t always know where they want to go,” Hall said. “The new website starts with that question – what do you want to do? Then we can show you where to go.”
• It’s available in more languages. Through a Google Translate feature, visitors can choose the language they hope to get the content in from a drop-down box.
• It’s more accessible. The revamped website works with a wider variety of accessibility tools.
“Our amazing web manager is training our staff on how to update pages, which includes how to make the content available using tools that people with vision and hearing disabilities use,” Hall said.
• It features “bucket list” activities, perfect for when you’re pressed for time.
“If you only have an hour and want to see some of the best things in that park, look here,” Hall said. “Each park also has a ‘for kids’ section with junior ranger worksheets, and there are nearby opportunities listed. Oftentimes parks are busy, so people want to know exactly where they can go that’s nearby instead.”
• It sorts trail by difficulty by noting elevation, rockiness and more.
“We now have a sortable, searchable table to look at trail difficulty, which is based usually on elevation changes, how rocky the trail is, just how challenging it is,” Hall said. “And what type of trail you’re looking for – equestrians, bikers, paddlers. You can search for those things, plus trail length.”
You’ll also now find trail closures at the top of each park’s webpage, she said.
(Note: For detailed trail information, visit trails.nc.gov.)
• It highlights birds through a list of the birds available to spot at each park.
To see all the new features of the website, visit ncparks.gov.
3 hidden gems on the NC Parks website
The website is full of educational materials for all ages. Here are a three hidden gems The N&O spotted:
1/ ‘Musical Meditations’ videos
“The North Carolina Symphony has partnered with North Carolina State Parks and the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to create a series of videos intended to be a meditation tool. The video features an excerpt from a classical music composition, as well as footage from some of our state parks,” the website says.
For more information on the project, you can visit the North Carolina Symphony website at ncsymphony.org/musical-meditations.
2/ ‘Ask A Ranger Podcast’ episodes
Two park rangers – Ranger Crystal and Ranger Jess – host a monthly podcast that answers a range of questions about NC State Parks. You can email your questions to email@example.com.
Episodes include Venus Flytraps, Prehistoric Sharks, SSSSSSnakes Alive!, Solar Energy and more.
To listen to the podcast, visit ncparks.gov/ask-ranger.
3/ ‘Nature At Home’ videos
These all-ages YouTube videos bring NC Parks into your home, car or classroom.
Series include Amazing Animals, The Wonderful World of Plants, Studying the Sciences, Virtual Visits and more.
To watch the videos, visit ncparks.gov/nature-at-home.