A New Reason to Hike with a Smartphone


The vision of forest sustainability, as imagined by James Madison at Montpelier, stood in contrast to the wanton resource extraction he observed in the early 1800s. Today, those same forests have not only recovered, they are sustainably managed and boast the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first smartphone tree ID trail. Trees along the trail display identification signs that contain QR codes—barcodes embedded with additional information which can be viewed when scanned with a smartphone.

Montpelier’s visitors will have the first opportunity to test this technology during the April 15 Demonstration Forest Walk on April 15, at 2 p.m. The walk guides visitors through part of the James Madison Landmark Forest to a loop trail that explores various conservation management practices based on today’s best forest science. The tour will meet at the Montpelier Visitor Center.

According to Adam Downing, a forester with Virginia Cooperative Extension, the new trail signs are unique. “This is one of the only ID trails using QR codes in Virginia,” says Downing.

Virginia Master Naturalists worked with resource professionals from Virginia Cooperative Extension and Montpelier to test the technology, develop content and locate representative tree specimens.

“Anyone with a smartphone can access additional information about a tree’s historical use and a link to Virginia Tech’s ‘Tree ID’ website,” according to Joy Andrews, who led the project and is a Certified Master Naturalist from the Old Rag Chapter. Others can enjoy the trail with limited visual impact from ID signage that doesn’t distract.

Montpelier’s Demonstration Forest Trail is a cooperative project by: The Montpelier Foundation, Virginia Master Naturalists, Virginia Cooperative Extension, The Society of American Foresters, Virginia Department of Forestry, the Ballyshannon Fund, Virginia’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative Implementation Committee, Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment as partners in Virginia’s LEAF (Link to Education About Forestry) program.

Guest blogger Adam Downing is a forester with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

QR code sign linked to Tree ID website.








Montpelier Staff