The interpretation trail is telling a story and like all stories it needs a defined context - a beginning, a middle and an end.
At the same time however it must still provide a series of stand alone entities for users who may connect with the trail at random points along its length.
Managing this duality on interpretive trails requires careful thought, planning and landscape design.
A node is not defined by the place where you might happen to stick in a sign.
Rather it is a considered space where you invite the user to step aside from their journey and take in the material on offer in a defined setting.
This approach highlights the essential role that landscape design must play as the bedrock upon which the trail experience is delivered.
Even in interpretation trail settings where cost limitations allow little if any intervention, the principle still holds.
It ensures consideration is given to the comfort and safety of the user connecting with the message ensemble. Along a multi user pathway open to bikes for example it can also play a crucial role in OH&S considerations.
Clearly defined nodes reinforce the coherent, connected nature of the interpretive trail experience on offer.
Landscaped node along the Gully Aboriginal Place Interpretive Trail at Katoomba, Blue Mountains
Signage inside the node is concentrated so as to provide a coherent ensemble of messages.
This node along the Ballina Cultural Ways Interpretive Trail gives people the chance to step aside from the main connecting multi use trail.
Interpretive planning was an integral part of the design and fabrication process for the Ballina pathway construction.
We present our clients with landscape mockups of how the proposed trail components will fit into existing visitor settings.
The entry nodes to the Great Victorian Railtrail were designed to provide a grand gateway that stood out in the landscape.
The pastoral heritage interpretive trail at Mungo National Park referenced the wool press in its design.
The entry node the the Wallaces Heritage Trail on the Bogong High Plains must cater for summer and winter useage.
The need to cater for winter snowloads had a major impact on the design of the roof structure on the Bogong High Plains.
This track node on the Three Bays Walkway at Green Head , Western Australia shows the value of locating signage in track nodes.
Bespoke sign designs which deliver consistency without cloning are essential to an engaging trail experience.
Through the use of web apps content can be delivered on the fly to people in their preferred language in areas with internet coverage.
Local area networks with a solar powered Raspberry Pi web server delivering static web content can communicate with users in remote areas.
We used web app technology for example to assist us in the roll out of the Ballina Cultural Ways path.
Given the path has internet coverage, it was a simple matter to set up a digital support platform for the trail signage that allows visitors to sit in the trail nodes and listen to stories relevant to the signage as told by the local Aboriginal custodians of the area.
An important feature of this approach is that this content is not otherwise promoted or distributed on the web. The point here is that people need to be located on Country in order to hear these narratives.
The innovative qualities of this interpretation trail were recognised in September 2017 when it was commended as an outstanding local history project presenting information in unique formats in the Victorian Community History Awards run by the Public Records Office of Victoria.
Some details on the Falls Creek Heritage Trail are provided below. Click on or scan the QR code to view the actual product.
In October 2017, the way in which the Falls Creek Digital Arts and Heritage Trail presents local history in a unique format was commended in the Victorian Community History Awards.
We worked closely with the Falls Creek Museum to produce the trail as part of their celebrations marking 70 years since the first lodge was erected in the alpine village in 1947.
The trail offers people the chance to travel around the alpine village via 6 key information hubs where they can explore the stories of the buildings and landscapes around them.
A feature of the content provided at the hub is a short introductory video giving an overall context to the place where people are standing.
These short 90 second videos are narrated by children from the local Falls Creek Primary School. Additionally each child provides a description of their favourite thing about living in Falls Creek. The simple message here is that this place is our home and we would like to share some of its special values with you.
The trail guide is set up around a series of one page websites designed to deliver content to the viewer without continually opening up a new browsing window in the process.
The stability provided by presenting content via iFrame windows in situ enures people don't get lost as regards their place in the overall narrative.
In addition to the content designed to be read as people travel around the trail, the guide also includes in depth material intended for reading later on over post tour coffee and cake.
One special opportunity this presented was the chance to publish online edited sections of the diary of an early Falls Creek icon – Skippy St Elmo.
An additional element to the guide is the inclusion of a selection of images that collectively tell the story of the alpine village across its early days, middle days and recent days.
People can either just scroll through the images or else delve in to read further detail. This feature of ensuring people can find their own level of detail when browsing the guide is central to its design structure.
The trail was produced using the existing Falls User Guide as its underlying platform. The User Guide was carefully designed to ensure it could provide both core visitor orientation information while at the same time allowing for the addition of bespoke interpretive product to be undertaken quickly and simply.