The Trustees of Reservations manages nearly 30 North Shore properties—113 across the Commonwealth. Some span hundreds of acres, while others are rather remote. Navigating the unfamiliar sometimes takes a bit of the joy out of an outdoor adventure. Let’s face it: It’s nice to know where you are and how best to get to where you want to be.
Enter Go Trustees, an interactive map app that enables users to get around The Trustees’ sites with ease. With funding from the Claneil Foundation and REI, the nonprofit partnered with Natural Lands Trust in Pennsylvania to create the infrastructure behind the app. Then, each organization customized their own interface by overlaying trail maps on GPS-driven maps, thereby showing users where they are in real time.
Developing the Go Trustees software took time and careful consideration. “There was a lot of internal debate about how to best approach the design,” says Chief Marketing Officer Matt Montgomery. “We think a lot about getting people away from screens. We prefer [they] look at sunsets….” That mission begged the question: How do we use technology to help people experience nature without it interfering with the experience? “We wanted to introduce technology in a sensitive way,” notes Montgomery.
To do so, the functionality was kept simple so users don’t get too absorbed in the screen. However, they did layer in links to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter because behavioral studies show people like to post photos, especially millennials. “We really want people to do that,” says Montgomery. “One of our amazing assets is how visually spectacular our sites are. We want people to share their perspective of that.”
The idea behind the app is two-fold: to get people outdoors exploring nature and to make the organization more visible. Until recently, The Trustees had not been making a lot of use of technology and social media sites, “and that’s a problem,” says Montgomery, “because we need to be in front of people all the time.” He feels it is particularly important to engage young people; not only do many of them suffer from what he calls “a nature deficit,” but they are also the land stewards of tomorrow. (And they rely heavily on their phones to get information and to experience the world.)
The software—launched this past fall—was designed by Weblications and is available for free on iTunes or Google Play. It’s not meant to be a revenue generator for the organization. “We really just want it to be a platform to get people to our properties,” explains Montgomery. It is also useful for what he terms “improvised itineraries”—the ability to pull up the app at any time and see if there is a Trustees property to explore nearby.
Given the app’s young age, they are still testing it. “We’re hoping to get some input from users as to whether or not it’s successful,” notes Montgomery. They also plan to introduce improvements in the next six months as they fine-tune and keep pace with ever-changing technology, though they want to keep it fairly simple and “compact.”
Montgomery and his colleagues recognize people gather information in all kinds of ways. “We are trying to meet the demand,” he says. “This is a way for people to find out and learn about The Trustees, but it’s not the only way. We want you to have the option that best suits you.” thetrustees.org