Los Angeles County Using Technology to Advance Health and Wellness

By Clement Lau, AICP, DPPD | Posted on June 11, 2019

la county trails blog 410

Excessive time spent on electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets has resulted in both adults and children being less active and devoting less time outdoors. However, technology can also be used to advance health and wellness. For example, the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has developed an updated trails website and the brand new Trails LA County mobile app, which were both launched just before National Trails Day on June 1, 2019. The refreshed website and new mobile app support the “Parks Make Life Better” motto by promoting the use of trails and informing the public of the value and importance of stewardship, conservation and habitat restoration of our open space

The website’s enhanced functionalities are intended to be the go-to online resource for the public to find official trail information throughout L.A. County, while the new mobile app provides an on-the-go experience. To meet the needs of the public for trail-related information, both the website and app offer dynamic digital tools, including real-time alerts, maps, weather, trail length, elevation, difficulty level, rest stops, picnic locations and much more.

A dynamic feature for both platforms is the simple functionality of posting feedback online and on the app. Users may grade their experience, share pictures of scenic vista spots and tag their photos using the hashtags #TrailsLACounty and/or #TakeAHike. Information about special events, such as hikes that were held on National Trails Day, can be found on the site, as well. The website also serves as a tool that can help recruit volunteers for trail improvement and maintenance projects.

The app provides resources for over 550 miles of trails in L.A. County. It even allows for navigation when one does not have any cell phone reception. According to Michelle O’Connor, head of the Trails Planning Section, “The app will complement that by allowing you to wayfind while you're actually on the trail even if you're out of cell phone range. So if you're in the backcountry somewhere, you can rest assured that you're on the right path.” (see this video)

DPR collaborated with key partners on this project, including the County’s Internal Services Department, the National Park Service, California State Parks, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Mountain Restoration Trust, and Catalina Island Conservancy. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors supported the update of the trails website and development of the new app, and recognized DPR for its work on the project at a recent board meeting. 

“The new app Trails LA County will expand a wider reach to all trail users, from the first-time trailblazer to the avid hiker, families and outdoor enthusiasts,” said Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “I’m proud to support access to the extensive trail system in the county that will provide online resources to all existing users and inspire others to add trails into their outdoor activities.”

"We encourage all county residents to visit trails.lacounty.gov to learn about trails, stewardship and participate in National Trails Day on June 1," said Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “This is another example of how technology continues to develop services for L.A. County residents.”

While some may be quick to dismiss smartphones and tablets as devices that keep people indoors, technology may also help to advance health and wellness by encouraging the public to explore the many miles of multi-use trails in the Los Angeles area. As DPR Director John Wicker summarizes, “The new Trails LA County mobile app and revamped trails website demonstrate how world-class technology is changing the way we enjoy the great outdoors.” 

View the video for the Trails LA County mobile app below:

Clement Lau, AICP, DPPD, is a Departmental Facilities Planner with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, and a member of NRPA’s Health and Wellness Advisory Panel