Metro Parks sees increase in rescues, adds new safety app

The technology uses GPS to create a three-word code you can use to tell first responders exactly where you are located.
WSMV4's Brendan Tierney reports.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:48 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Metro Parks officials said with so many people moving to Nashville that aren’t familiar with the trail system, they’ve had to rescue a lot more hikers and bikers over the past year.

They are launching a new app to find people lost on trails or greenways and get them help as soon as possible.

“It is a problem,” Metro Parks Police Capt. Greg Davis said. “Just one person getting lost on one of our trails in a problem, much less the numerous people that happens to throughout the year.”

The technology is called what3words and uses GPS to assign a three-word code to 10-foot by 10-foot areas across the world.

“It is going to be much easier for someone who is lost and may be a little frantic to read those three words from that app instead of numerous digits of GPS coordinates,” Davis said. “Our Department of Emergency Communications can pull up their what3words application and tell us, the folks in the field that are going to be responding, where you are.”

He said the app is extremely accurate and will be used in more than 200 Metro parks and 100 miles of Metro greenways. Beyond helping people who are hurt on a trail and do not know where they are, the program will greatly reduce response time when someone is off trail.

“If they step out into the bushes and they see a flower or a tree that they want to observe and then they turn around and they realize they’ve gone 15 steps instead of just two steps, well now they are disoriented and may not know where they are,” David said. “That is where this app comes in and giving us a precise, a very precise location so that we can respond to you and help you get back on the trail or get you any of the emergency services you may need.”

The GPS-enabled app is free for iOS and Android users. There is also a free web version people can use on their phones without downloading the app.

People who get into the parks every day, including Michelle Robles, said they love the peace and serenity of these natural areas, but they can pose a danger. She is very happy to have this new tool in case she ever needs assistance out in the woods.

“There’s times when you just want to keep riding and then you are like, ‘Where am I at on the trail?’” Robles said. “If there is no sign, then you don’t know where you are at.”

Metro Parks officials said you should always tell someone where you plan on going before heading out on a trail. You can find both hiking maps and greenway trails information posted online.

It is also best to bring lots of water and other supplies during the hot summer months, and make sure you remove any valuables from your car before parking at a trailhead.