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By Ron Scopelliti
Given Rhode Island’s size, you wouldn’t think a great deal of technological assistance would be required to track down the state’s points of interest. But given its long, rich, and often bizarre history, even RI natives residents like myself can find ourselves in need of a helping hand. Recently I’ve discovered two such helping hands in form of free mobile phone apps.
Rhode Tour is a joint venture of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Brown University’s John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, and the Rhode Island Historical Society. The app uses a geographical approach to help share the state’s history, offering users the opportunity to look at their cell phone, and see what tales from the past are nearby. Finding a spot that’s marked on the app’s map and clicking on it reveals its historical significance through words and photos.
Alternately, users can take one of a series of tours available through the app. Tours include collections of sites related to historical subjects including the Dorr Rebellion and black history, and more geographically-oriented tours of places like Providence’s West Side, and Mashapaug Pond. There are currently 17 different tours on the app.
A favorite tour of mine was Downtown Providence, which allowed me to click on buildings that I regularly walk by, and get a quick history lesson on the spot.
A tour that I’m less familiar with, but hope to try soon is the Adamsville tour, which features 14 points of interest. Even though I spent a couple of years living next door in Westport Mass., I never knew the little village had so much going for it.
Rhode Tour is available through the Apple Store or Google Play. For more information, visit www.rhodetour.org
The Rhode Island State Parks Guide
The Rhode Island State Parks Guide, which is powered by Pocket Ranger, offers a number of tools to help get the most out of our parks. It gives users easy, mobile-phone-optimized access to the information on the parks’ websites, and allows them to search for a park they may want to visit based on location, or based on the activity they’re looking to participate in.
Putting in a search for bike rides got me the expected results pointing me towards the Blackstone River and East Bay bike paths, but it also turned up a spot I’d never considered – Jamestown’s Wetherill State Park.
The most impressive aspects of the app, however, are its geographical and navigational features. It offers detailed maps that are cacheable, so you can use them even if you’re in a cellular dead zone.
Two features about the maps that I particularly like are an onscreen compass, and a readout that constantly displays the accuracy of the GPS readings. There are also features to keep track of the path you’ve taken, and to mark waypoints on your journey with photos.
The app also allows you share your location with selected contacts. It’s a convenient tool when you and your friends decide to take rendezvous after taking separate paths, and it could be an absolute life saver in the case of an emergency.
So far, I’ve only scratched the surface of what the app has to offer. The one downside I’ve found is an occasional pop-up ad, but it’s a small price to pay for a free app that offers so many features.
Those who like Rhode Island’s State Parks Guide can also download apps of many other states that use Pocket Ranger as their basis. According to the website of Pocket Rangers’ parent company, more than half of the country’s state parks use their app.
The Rhode Island State Parks Guide is available through the Apple Store or Google Play. For more information, visit