May 3, 2017

D&R Greenway’s New Storytelling App Brings Abbott Marshlands Trips to Life

NATURE MEETS TECHNOLOGY: D&R Greenway Land Trust’s new TravelStorys app enhances the experience of paddling through the Abbott Marshlands. Boaters and paddlers can go back in time as they listen to tales of the area and learn how it looked and sounded in centuries past.

The idea of using a cell phone while on a nature trek seems almost sacrilegious. But technology is the focus of a new program designed to enhance trips through the historic Abbott Marshlands and Crosswicks Creek, the scenes of early English settlements, Lenape Indian life, and even French royalty. 

D&R Greenway Land Trust’s TravelStorys app, available for trips along the creek this Saturday and on June 4 and July 19, is downloaded onto a smart phone, and then activated by GPS as users paddle through the area. “The idea is to use technology people are so familiar with, while getting their eyes up off the phone and into the landscape,” said Linda Mead, D&R Greenway president and CEO. “You can preview it ahead of time by just looking at it on your phone. But we want people, when they’re out in the landscape, to just look and listen.”

This Saturday, May 6 at 10 a.m., the theme for those paddling canoes and kayaks along the Abbott Marshlands is the Mexican observance Cinco de Mayo. The tidal trip is eight miles from Bordentown Beach to Watson Woods/Roebling Park and back. Participants are advised to bring lunch, snacks and beverages, wear boots and gloves, and bring their own boats.

It was Ms. Mead’s friend, the appropriately named Story Clark, who inspired the idea for the app. Ms. Clark, who has worked for a land trust in Wyoming, developed several tours using the technology in Wyoming and Montana. She was interested in expanding it eastward.

“I thought, isn’t this perfect for us?” Ms. Mead said. “Because we already had a long-term water trail in the marsh, which we created 20 years ago. Here was the new generation of that.”

Funding from the William Penn Foundation paid for program. Experts in botany, wildlife, preservation, and related topics helped write the entries for the three, 19-minute TravelStorys, which can be downloaded when in WiFi range. No WiFi is needed once the app is downloaded. Points are triggered by the GPS, so as soon as a specific location is reached, the phone automatically begins to talk about what’s there.

Voices heard in the app include New Jersey State Archaeologist Greg Lattanzi, local educator Mike MacEwan, Tulpehaking Nature Center manager Kelly Rypkyma, and Ms. Mead. The Paddling Tour comes with a map showing each site, along with images to enhance the experience. A land-based tour for walkers and cyclists is planned for later this year.

Subjects include how the D&R Canal was built in the 1830s and became one of the country’s busiest navigation channels; the history of the home of Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, on a bluff above Bordentown; and more. Ms. Mead has her own favorite stories.

“I love the part on the paddling tour about native Americans and archaeology,”
she said. “It’s amazing to think they were here 13,000 years ago. People are fascinated by that. The other piece that stands out for me is one that we call ‘Local Heroes.’ None of these places would be saved if it weren’t for individuals who took action. We give them credit. And they serve as great examples. People can learn that they can protect something, too.”

To participate, contact George and Leona at (609) 259-3734 or