A series of interactive photo posts have recently been installed on walking trails in Co Clare. Unlike more traditional trail marker posts, these innovative ones boast smartphone holders and have multiple uses.

The initiative was organised by Clare Rural Recreation Officer (RRO) Eoin Hogan of Clare Local Development Company. Eoin explains that these new posts allow walkers to do three things. “First, they allow walkers to take photos of trail conditions and send reports back to the trail manager via our website,” states Eoin. “Secondly, he adds, “the posts allow walkers to take selfies in safe locations.” “And finally,” Eoin explains, “you can take scenic photos and upload them automatically to the trail managers website. This is a great way to promote the trails to other hikers.”

Monitoring trail conditions

When it comes to monitoring trail conditions to ensure that walking routes remain safe and well maintained, the buck stops with RRO Eoin who looks after more than 400km of on-road and off-road walking trails and cycling trails. Given the length and, at times, remote areas of the trails, it is a challenging job requiring plenty of man-hours.

Eoin previously set up a team of volunteer trail wardens who monitor the trails once every three months and send the paperwork to be filed by the RRO. The initial funding for this warden scheme came from winning the Caminoways Greenlife Fund in 2016 and a further roll-out is planned in a cooperation project with Clare Sports Partnership. Now the new trail posts will supplement this monitoring process and the posts are positioned in areas where more regular trail monitoring is required. Anyone walking in these remoter spots can take photos of trail conditions and send reports back to trail manager via their website. The monitoring of the trails is critical for keeping them safe and maintained but also for preventing potential insurance claims.

Safe selfie locations
Believe it or not, a 2018 study from the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care found that 259 verifiable selfie-related deaths were recorded from 2011 to 2017.
Clare recently had its own ‘selfie’ tragedy when an Indian student fell from the Cliffs of Moher and eyewitness reports said he was taking a photo of himself at the time. One way to alleviate this is to create ‘safe selfie’ locations.
Eoin explains that the safe selfie locations are chosen to ensure the trail user is safe and away from danger, and that the chosen spots provide the ‘exciting’ view for the selfie taker, reducing the risk of them venturing to more dangerous spots.
Promotion of the trails by sharing scenic photos
Another benefit of these interactive photo posts is that they will allow walkers to take scenic photos and immediately upload them to the trail manager’s website for all to see. From the 300m Cliffs of Moher to the unique limestone landscape of the Burren, allowing instant sharing of gorgeous photos will encourage more walkers and lovers of nature to Co Clare which spans both the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Hidden Heartland Regions..

Instant uploading of photos will be possible using:
• The NFC Chip on the posts
• The QR code on the posts
• The direct website address which is also found on the posts
NFC stands for Near Field Communication and is a wireless technology that allows you to tap your smartphone on the post to open the trails website (on your phone) and upload it to.
Similarly, if you scan the QR code on the post with your phone, it will open a webpage allowing them to upload a picture to the trails website.
Or you can type the trail website into the browser on your phone to complete your photo upload.
If you’re keen to see these shared photos or to learn more about the project, visit Clare-getsidetracked.ie