TORRINGTON – Everywhere you turn in this day and age, there are people with their noses buried in their smartphone, tablet or other device.
They’re checking everything from the weather to stock prices to what their friends just got for lunch on social media. And, as they drive across the wide-open spaces of the Cowboy State, they can learn about the history of the cities and towns they pass on their way.
Travel Stories is the brainchild of Jackson-based developer Story Clark. The app, available now on the Apple App Store and Google Play, features audio stories, images and interactive maps, highlighting the communities and points of interest along Wyoming highways.
Several Wyoming communities are already partnered with the app, which is coming to Goshen County. The Goshen County Economic Development Corporation is currently collecting stories and setting up routes for a planned launch of its own Travel Stories site.
The local section will feature stories from 10 sites around the county – each of the local communities and areas of interest in between, such as the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.
“This is great advertising and promotion for the communities,” said Ashley Harpstreith, GCEDC executive director.
Travel Stories is coming to Goshen County, in part, through the largesse of the Wyoming Business Council. The council struck a bargain with Ms. Clark to offer the app – which normally costs $10,000 per member entity to join – for $5,000. Then WBC agreed to pick up the bulk of that cost, giving communities access to the app for $1,500, Harpstreith said.
“Now, we’re right in the middle of development,” she said. “Travel Stories provides the basic framework but the meat and potatoes comes from our communities. We hope to have it live by the time people are traveling.”
It’ll be no surprise that cellular coverage can be spotty, at best, in some parts of Wyoming. But the Travel Stories app doesn’t need a constant signal to function.
When app users have decided on their route, they can download information, which is stored on their device for access as they travel. The app uses global positioning system data on GPS-enabled devices to pinpoint locations and dispense the relevant travel information.
The addition of Travel Stories is part and parcel with an overall redesign and re-branding of the GCEDC. The group recently used a $50,000, 75-25 matching grant from the Wyoming Business Council to complete a comprehensive study of how it serves the communities. The study produced a report, which will help the GCEDC as it targets marketing efforts to support existing business and, possibly, attract new companies to the area, Harpstreith said.
The next step will include a redesigned GCEDC website – goshenwyo.com. Harpstreith said she’s submitted a second application for a 50-50 matching grant to finance the new website. Due to the competitive nature of the grant process, she declined to say what the source of that funding is.
“We need a new, dynamic website to flow with local businesses,” she said. “The new site will be substantially more user friendly on the backend.
“There is an intense investment up front, but on the backend we’ll be able to manage a lot of it,” Harpstreith said. “Our website was last updated 10 years ago and the technology has changed since then.”
Launch date for the Goshen County edition of Travel Stories is planned for later this spring, probably in late April or early May, she said. In addition to guiding travelers to local attractions and helping fill the hours in between, the app can also be a learning experience for children by introducing them to the history of the areas they’re rolling through.
“There’s a lot of downtime when traveling between communities” in Wyoming, Harpstreith said. “This is a reason for people to get off the trail, get out of their cars and explore.”