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Jesse King.jpg

Up until 2013, the state of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) ability to offer information to outdoor enthusiasts was limited to their department-wide website. Consumer engagement was evidenced by traffic on the site consisting of 6 million visits from 3.6 million unique visitors viewing more than 15.6 million pages. But for the 25 percent of traffic from mobile browsers, the experiences of users viewing content on devices varied.


Gene and Jesse recognized that mobile device usage was on the rise and that it was essential to reach the outdoor enthusiasts where they were through a department-wide mobile experience. Their goal was simple: provide a mobile experience for customers which would act as an interactive and dynamic portal to vital information and content developed by the DNR for use by anglers, hunters, outdoor






enthusiasts, and conservationists. Gene and Jesse knew that a mobile experience was a logical extension of their agency’s mandate to provide vital information and content to the citizens of Maryland and users of the State’s natural resources.


The award-winning AccessDNR app is the official app from the Maryland DNR for the State’s outdoor enthusiasts.  Whether a customer wants to visit a Maryland State Park, hunt or fish, explore waterways by boat or kayak, or simply watch wildlife, consumers using a personal device have all the information and services they need on the go.


But Gene and Jesse did not stop after successfully implementing this customer-centric, mobile approach to service design and delivery. Since the original launch of the AccessDNR app, they have continued to evolve the content and delivery channels as new technologies have emerged.


In fact, Maryland’s DNR pioneered the use of the Apple Watch for state government in 2015. Maryland was the first state to publish an Apple Watch app for government that used geolocation functionality. When paired with the AccessDNR mobile app, the Apple Watch app helps users easily discover water trails, boat launches and fishing areas without having to rummage for a phone or paper map.


And as technologies continue to emerge, Gene and Jesse ensure Maryland DNR keeps pace by continually enhancing the user-experience channels, pushing innovations and expanding the agency’s communications platform to benefit their constituents. A sampling of these innovations includes:

  • HARVEST REPORTING – Leveraging API integration technology, hunters can quickly comply with state harvest reporting requirements in the field and submit the information to DNR’s Licensing System. Once the harvest details are submitted to the agency, the information is also stored on the user’s phone in their Trophy Case.

  • GEO-LOCATION PARK QUEST - The goal of Park Quest is to engage families in outdoor activities and encourage them to experience state parks throughout Maryland. Using geo-location services, the app displays Park Quest locations based on a radius of the user’s location. It also provides a journal to allow participants to select the park location, the date visited, photos, team members and comments to easily record their participation history. Journal entries can be shared to Facebook, Twitter and email with a simple click of a button.

  • GEO-LOCATION BOATER SPEED LIMIT INTERACTIVE MAP - AccessDNR boasts innovative uses of geolocation, including a new feature launched in 2017 that alerts boaters of speed limits and zones on state waterways. Boaters can search for speed zones by river system and zoom in to highlight an area of interest. Boaters can link the app to the GPS on their vessel to track their route and signal when they are approaching a speed zone.

  • FISHING REPORT ALEXA SKILL – In 2018, DNR introduced the Fishing Report Alexa skill. The fishing report has been a mainstay on DNR’s website and mobile app and is consistently in the top three most visited website pages. This Alexa skill allows the user to hear the entire fishing report or select one of the five major fishing regions in the state.


Maryland DNR culture is based on customer engagement and citizen feedback. The sportsman culture in Maryland are vocal and passionate about their sports and eager to provide their feedback, both positive and negative. Feedback is gathered from the web, live customer support, social media, app Store, and events. Citizen feedback is directly reflected in the AccessDNR communications platform in a variety of ways. Content is driven primarily by userfeedback. User feedback directly reflect not only the type of content, but how and where the content is presented. For example, the genesis of expanding the state’s communication platform to an IoT channel for the Fishing Report as an Alexa skill was to better reach the consumer. Expanding the communications platform into this new channel by aggregating existing content from DNR’s website provides for an enhanced user experience for receiving these weekly informational updates.

Citizen-centric government is all about turning the focus of government around – looking at the service delivery through the eyes of the citizens so that the needs of the citizen come first.

The services provided through the AccessDNR communications platform are designed for the outdoorsman and provides hunters, anglers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts with the latest Maryland outdoor recreation information, news and alerts right at their fingertips or by Alexa hearing their voice.

But convenience is just one of the many benefits offered by the AccessDNR mobile app. Other benefits enjoyed by the public include:

  • Access to up-to-the minute news and alerts from DNR;

  • Opportunity to better integrate technology into interactions with the State’s natural resources;

  • Mobile experience that drives user engagement with DNR services;

  • Real-time harvest reporting for hunters;

  • Near me mapping feature with detailed directions for parks and waterways;

  • Virtual trophy case so hunters and anglers can upload a photo and share with others via social media or email;

  • State park locations, activities and amenities, and boat launch sites;

  • Ability to identify Maryland fish and shellfish, view state records and access tide information;

  • Access hunting, fishing and boating regulations;

  • Mobile licensing and renewals;


Since it’s initial launch in December 2013, they have enjoyed many accomplishments, including:

  • 90,000+ downloads

  • Time-to-Market: six months

  • Four major releases and 79 product enhancements. Notable enhancements include:

    • February 2014: AccessDNR for Android launched

    • April 2014: Water Trails and Trout Stocking information added

    • June 2015: AccessDNR for Apple Watch launched

    • August 2015: Added ability to search hunting dates by species

    • February 2016: Park Quest functionality added to engage families in outdoor activities

    • June 2017: Added MD Boating Speed Zone Map

    • May 2018: AccessDNR Alexa Skill Weekly Fishing Report launched

Since 2014, the AccessDNR communication platform consisting of the mobile app, Apple Watch app, and Fishing Report Alexa Skill have been honored with 10 awards for innovation and citizen experience including:


  • 2014 VEMA Award

  • 2014 Marcom Award

  • 2016 StateScoop 50 Innovation of the Year Award

  • 2016 Communicator Award

  • 2016 Marcom Award

  • 2018 Horizon Interactive Award

  • 2018 AVA Digital Award

  • 2018 Hermes Creative Award

  • 2018 Center for Digital Government’s Government to Citizen Government Experience Award

  • 2018 Davey Award for experimental & immersive technology


The AccessDNR mobile app, Apple Watch app and the Fishing Report Alexa Skill were developed by NIC Maryland at no charge to the DNR through its self-funded digital government services contract with the Maryland Department of Information Technology (DoIT).  Under the contract, services and solutions are developed, delivered and maintained by NIC Maryland at no cost to the state, agency or customer.