An arch at the end of Grandstaff Canyon Trail, one of the most popular trails in Moab. Credit: Alison Harford/Moab Sun News

At its Aug. 2 meeting, the Grand County Commission approved a contract with Utah-based digital map making company Wander App Inc. to create an interactive map of the Moab area that includes responsible recreation messaging.

“While maps exist, and interactive maps exist, there is no tool that allows total and complete back-end access to select which points of interest we show and what information we choose to share,” August Granath, director of the Economic Development Department, read from the agenda summary.

“It’s just kind of an orientation tool,” Granath said. He explained that the county’s responsible recreation coordinator has been working with online trail information platforms such as AllTrails to include responsible recreation messaging on its information pages about Moab trails and destinations. With the Wander App, the county will have editorial control over what’s included on the map and what information is shared.

Nathan Porter, a representative of Wander App who called in to the meeting remotely, said, “With these other platforms, what we’re trying to get away from, is they do show the social trails and they do show things that aren’t necessarily places that you want them to go or places that you want them to see… so you have that ownership and that stewardship.”

Assistant Marketing Director Melissa Stocks added that the app would allow the county to also quickly update new information, such as trail closures.

The map will be embedded in the county’s Discover Moab website, and also be available to download as a tool that can be used both on and offline. Wander App will also generate trackable QR codes to help the county monitor how the map is being used.

The app will cost the county $14,000 this year, and an annual fee of $12,000 if the county chooses to continue; the contract does not oblige the county to continue beyond one year.

Commissioner Josie Kovash pressed Granath on the targeted demographic.

“Looking at the app myself, I feel like there are some travelers out there who will find the information kind of limiting, and will hop on those other apps anyway to get more information,” Kovash said.

Granath said he was also initially skeptical of the concept, but explained that the Wander App map wasn’t meant to replace other interactive maps and information sites such as Google Maps, Gaia, AllTrails or onX; instead, it’s meant to be a resource from the “authoritative destination organization.” Granath also suggested that people who aren’t familiar with other mapping and planning tools might use the Wander App map.

Commissioner Kevin Walker pointed out that the contract is less expensive than some of the county’s other efforts to disperse responsible recreation messages. Commissioners agreed the Wander App tool is worth a try.

“We’ve got a very diverse user base—certainly not everyone’s going to use this, and probably a lot of people we know personally are not going to be fooled into using this, but I think a lot of other people might,” Walker said.