The official beginning of summer also marks new opportunities for Iowans to connect with outdoor recreation: a new mobile state park application as well as a state-wide data base for Iowans to locate outdoor recreation activities.
A mobile application for state parks developed through the Iowa Parks Foundation was unveiled Monday at Governor Branstad's weekly press conference. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has also developed a program, Healthy and Happy Outdoors (H20) that allows Iowans to find more than 30 types of outdoor activities at more than 1,600 state and county parks and recreation areas.
"As someone who visits all 99 counties in Iowa, I can personally attest to not only the natural beauty of our state, but also the tremendous options we have here to find healthy outdoor recreational opportunities no matter where we live," said Branstad.
In addition to its state-of-the-art GPS technology, the Iowa State Parks & Recreation Guide provides plenty of other tools that make exploring the great outdoors a breeze. Visitors can decide which park to visit by using a comprehensive list of activities or by searching for a park within a particular region. The Calendar of Events is updated in real time and will inform app users of all the upcoming events for each Park. Park rules and regulations are a click away, which is especially helpful to anglers and sportsmen. Planning an extended visit to Iowa's rolling hills, glistening lakes, or sprawling prairies is easy with a few quick clicks using the app to secure overnight reservations.
The Iowa State Parks & Recreation Guide is designed to provide information to guide and enhance the outdoor experience, and to provide added safety and enjoyment for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts at all of Iowa's treasured State Parks and Recreation Areas. The app is the perfect way for park goers to Map it, Discover and Explore Iowa's State Parks and Recreation Areas.
"This mobile application is a convenient way to promote use of parks in Iowa using a technology that more and more of our citizens are using on a daily basis," said Joe Gunderson of the State Parks Foundation Board of Directors.
Healthy & Happy Outdoors, or H2O, is an initiative to connect Iowans with outdoor resources as a way to reduce stress and improve their health.
"Our goal is to help Iowans increase mental and physical health through outdoor recreation in Iowa's natural spaces," said Chuck Gipp, DNR Director.
Iowans can go online to www.iowadnr.gov/h2o to find outdoor recreational opportunities in all 99 counties and create an account to log what activities they have done. Those who sign up are automatically entered into prize drawings for outdoor gear.
The H2O website will continue to grow with tips, healthy links, additional activities and more. Iowans are encouraged to help improve the map by inputting their favorite park into the system. "Our goal is to have every park in the state listed on this map, but we need Iowans' help identifying those great outdoor spaces," Gipp said.
A 2009 report by Resources for the Future, a national environmental policy center, said, " contact with nature positively affects blood pressure, cholesterol, outlook on life, stress reduction and behavioral problems among children." According to the report, researchers have found participation in outdoor recreation impacts two particular problems -- stress and obesity.
"We want every Iowan to know that spending time outdoors increases physical activity and reduces stress," said Gipp. "H2O provides a tool to make that happen. No matter where they live, Iowans can find places to spend outside that are close to home."
Branstad said the state park application and H20 are two more options to promote a healthier lifestyle for Iowans which acts as a cornerstone to the goal of making Iowa the healthiest state in nation.
The initiatives also play into the goal of improving Iowa's economy and creating 200,000 new jobs.
"The retention and recruitment of a high quality workforce is important to Iowa. These new tools offer us an opportunity to showcase the many great places and activities we have to offer across our entire state," said Branstad.