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Hillsborough County puts park rangers in the palm of your hand

Posted at 4:01 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 16:01:22-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — This summer anyone who wants a private tour of their favorite Hillsborough County conservation park is welcome to it, free of charge, anytime they want. However, it won’t be a park ranger doing the guiding, it will be a new app.

The idea behind Hillsborough Florida Nature Tours began during the pandemic.

“A lot more people were coming out to parks, but we weren’t allowed to give guided hikes at the time, so we thought, ‘how can we give people the same experience of a ranger in their pocket,’ so that’s where we came up with the app,” said Ashley Martin with Hillsborough County.

Martin helped develop the tour for Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park, one of 14 parks and preserves in the county to be linked up to this new technology.

“So you’ll learn about the ecology of the area, a little bit of the history of the parks, any historical sights or markers, waterways, all sorts of unique features,” said Martin.

There are markers scattered throughout each park. All you have to do is scan the QR code or download the app, then listen and learn.

“You’re going to learn something that you probably wouldn’t have seen if you just walked this trail on your own,” said Martin.

She hopes the experience encourages people to take pride in our county parks and fight to protect them.

“When they love them and they are learning from them and they feel like it’s part of their community they want to keep it and they want to keep preserving it and keep coming,” said Martin.