written by Kimberly Bowker | photos by Talia Galvin
There are countless reasons to step outside. Perhaps it’s camping with the family, disc golfing over a lunch break, climbing that mountain on the bucket list or just sitting by a river. While low-tech has continually offered new ways to experience the outdoors (just think compasses and tents), Trailhead Labs has taken outdoor accessibility to the next level.
Implementing today’s technology, Trailhead Labs allows parks-and-recreation agencies, along with partnering organizations, to create interactive maps and mobile applications that enable people to get outside. Jereme Monteau and Ryan Branciforte, outdoor enthusiasts and friends who co-founded the company three years ago in San Francisco, are now moving to Bend. They are excited for the change, and to continue growing a company that supports a healthier world.
“We definitely want to have a big, positive impact,” said Monteau, the company’s chief technology officer, “but we are on a trajectory that is a lifestyle change. Oregon feels like a place which celebrates that.”
At its core, Trailhead Labs is an outdoor technology company helping to get more people outside. Monteau and Branciforte feel that being active outdoors and having access to green spaces improves their own lives and cultivates an appreciation for public land. It is something they want to share with everyone.
The company designs core technological platforms that can be customized for different needs, and can be updated over time. Parks-and-recreation agencies, with thousands of locations in the country, comprise many of Trailhead Lab’s fifteen customers. Other clients include partnering nonprofits that support and advocate for parks, as well as government agencies such as the Forest Service.
“All these people have the same interest of doing things outside, and maintaining that resource to have access to it,” said Monteau.
Trailhead Lab supports an open data and open source structure, which allows developers and agencies to use the same information and sometimes all work on the same map. Layering multiple sources of information on one map makes it easier for people to get outside, or at least to get outside in new ways. “Sometimes technology enables you to get outside to experience the outdoors,” said Monteau.
“Sometimes we experience the outdoors with technology. There is room for all of this.”
Intertwine Alliance in Portland worked with Trailhead Labs to build a map, which integrates information from twenty-eight agencies that manage parks and trails around the Portland area. Rather than having to search different outlets to know how to get to a destination and what to expect, it is all in one place. Such convenience makes exploring the outdoors easier for all.
“Trailhead Labs has offered us a way to generate our map, provide us with an interface that makes it really easy for us to use, and to keep that map up to date,” said Michael Wetter, executive director of Intertwine Alliance. “And it allows us to have our partners work on the map, so we are literally all working on the same page together.”
Parks and outdoor spaces are common ground that bring the community together, said Wetter. It is possible to witness all kinds of life on trails, offering a place for people to share the same path.
This spring, Intertwine Alliance will launch a mobile application made with Trailhead Labs. The app, Daycation, intends to connect people to nearby outdoor experiences and adventures. Users can check-in, upload information, and learn what is happening nearby. The app even facilitates a dialogue between the professional community and the user, so park rangers or naturalists can communicate via the technology.
Trailhead Labs helps people navigate outside for longer periods of time and in safer ways. The founders are also in the process of collecting data detailing how people use the outdoors. In the future, such information could aid agencies in marketing campaigns and efficiently improving spaces for a particular use. The company is also looking at ways to combine various activities into one outing.
Trailhead Labs expects to grow, and from its new location in Bend. The outdoor technology company aspires to create a better environment for everybody, by helping people to step outside and be part of green space.
“Having all the information in one place,” said Monteau, “lets people take all kinds of new adventures.”