By NEIL ZAWICKI
Shannon King is a software developer and an avid hiker. He’s recently merged both to create Trail Hub, an app that lets people find walking paths and advanced hiking trails in their part of the world.
King grew up in Milton, and his grandfather, Neil King, managed the wildlife refuge at Sandbar State Park for years, imparting his love of the outdoors and for being active to his family.
“I can remember having raccoons in the house and we were always getting outside,” said King. “Morally we were taught to respect the land, so I wanted to create an app that would encourage people to be active and to use their natural resources.”
The app, which is free to users, works as a venue for outdoor groups, lodges, and municipalities to share their information on the trail systems available in their area. For a small fee, they upload their official information, including levels of difficulty, amenities nearby, and natural attractions. The four-season platform offers trail options for all types of outdoor activities.
“I’m like an Amazon for trails,” he said.
Trail Hub offers information on hiking trails, but also lets users know where ADA accessible routes are, and links to Google maps, painting the trails with color coding to separate the easy routes from the hard ones, letting users choose their experience. The app also shows information of places to eat and drink nearby, letting users plan their fun after the hike as well.
King said he came up with the first pencil sketches for Trail Hub in 2009, and finally went live in 2013. He said 350 resorts and outdoor centers are using the app. These range from Vermont to Montana and states out west, to parts of Canada.
In Milton, users can access information on the Town Forest, Eagle Mountain Recreation Area, and Bombardier Park West. Most recently, Milton Town Manager Don Turner partnered with King to offer not only trail info, but to build maps of Milton’s historical sites through a walking trail of Milton’s sidewalks.
“Bringing in the municipalities is new,” said King. “Some of the selectboard members asked if we could use it to highlight part of the town, so we went for it.”
King said his vision for municipalities such as Milton is to help create healthy communities with access to outdoor resources. The real value, said King, is that the app is trail manager generated, meaning all the information a municipality or outdoor center would include in their literature, including hazard warning and seasonal weather advisories, is included. Such information is easily updated, as well as any route changes that could occur. An added bonus, said King, is that his app is not like social media sites, where user generated information could either be too vague or too negative.
“We’re all facts,’ he said. “Just good information.”