For those with the eyes to see it, the rich history of Santa Cruz County – human and natural history alike – is visible at virtually every turn.
Now, with Mobile Ranger -- a new smartphone and tablet app created by Bonny Doon resident Julia Gaudinski and her husband Jim Whitehead -- that history can be readily seen even by those who haven’t spent years studying it.
Launched on the Apple App Store on Feb. 25, Mobile Ranger is a program that developed over the course of a year and a half in collaboration with local geologists and historians to paint as complete a picture as possible of the human and natural history of the West Cliff Drive and North Coast areas of Santa Cruz County.
Designed to serve as a sort of virtual park ranger, Gaudinski’s app utilizes smartphones’ location feature to lead users on a walking tour of West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, and a driving tour of the coast between Santa Cruz and Davenport while showing points of historic interest along the way.
Gaudinski, whose background includes a doctorate in earth system science from University of California, Irvine, said that her hope for the app is that it will help visitors to the area – as well as those with a casual interest in local history – notice the landscape around them.
“I’m trying to make it interesting for a wide range of people,” she said.
For Gaudinski, the app’s development was as much of a means of opening up the history of Santa Cruz to a mass audience as it was a means of satisfying her own sense of curiosity of nature and history.
“Where I can, I definitely fit them together,” Gaudinski said. “Whenever I go somewhere, this is the stuff I want to know and I can’t find it.”
The app’s interactive map shows the user’s location in relation to the tour stops. Each point of interest, marked with a red arrow on the map, features a description of the location’s historic significance, along with photos and audio. The audio is read by Bonny Dooner Rachel Goodman, the director of the Tannery Arts Center in Santa Cruz.
Among the items of interest included in the app are historic homes and buildings, local plant and marine life, geological formations, as well as the history of local issues such as dogs on It’s Beach and the feud with Huntington Beach over the “Surf City, USA” designation.
“(There are) 28 stops between Natural Bridges (State Beach) and the (Santa Cruz Municipal) Wharf, if you can believe it,” she said.
Gaudinski said that her hope for the app was to have it serve as sort of a proving ground for the idea, with the goal of including more and more areas.
“This seems like a really good test spot,” she said. “I’d love to see them globally.”
The app is currently only available for iPhone and iPad on the Apple App Store for $4.99, but an Android version would be available soon, Gaudinski said.
For more information, visit www.mobileranger.com.
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