My last post was about social media and how it has been used to catch vandals in US National Parks. But that is not the only way in which social media and national parks are converging these days. More and more, social media is being used by land management agencies (like the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, and the BLM) to engage with the public. Here I am going to highlight two social media campaigns that attempt to engage new audiences and bring those audiences out to experience public lands: The “Red Chair Experience” campaign from Parks Canada and the “Find Your Park” Campaign by the National Park Service.
This past year I have upped my social media presence and tried to become a bit more “social media savy”. Besides making an effort to become more active on Twitter, I also created an Instagram account. Honestly, the inspiration for starting to use Instagram was that I feared my constant posting of cat photos on Facebook was going to cause me to lose some friends. But on Instagram, the more cat photos the better, right?
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) this post will not contain any cat photos, but it will contain links to Instagram photos of illegal activity occurring in national parks . On Friday night, while taking a break from work – because grad students trying to defend soon work on Friday nights – I noticed an interesting post on Twitter from Modern Hiker that linked to Instagram.
That image was found on the Instagram account of Andre Saravia (AKA Mr. Andre) a french graffiti artist and appeared to show a graffiti tag in a location that looks suspiciously like it was taken in Joshua Tree National Park. Mr. Andre stated that the photo was taken in a friends backyard (private property). However Modern Hiker, with the help of other social media users, did a great job “sleuthing” and found that the tagging indeed occured within the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree’s Chief Ranger received various calls about the graffiti and the park is beginning to investigate.
When people outside of my field find out that I do research in national parks, inevitably the question of “Do you have a favorite national park?” comes up. I always have a really hard time choosing; each national park is unique and I honestly I like them all. But when pressed, I usually respond with “It’s a tie between Isle Royale National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.” I have already done a blog post about why I love Isle Royale National Park. Given that tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the legislation that created Rocky Mountain National Park, I figured that I would celebrate it’s centennial by writing a post about why I love Rocky Mountain National Park.
Back when I lived in Wisconsin, one of my closest friends was the physical education teacher at the school I worked at. At some point during our friendship he invited me to play “disc-golf” with him one day after school. At the time I had absolutely no clue what he was asking me to do and honestly thought he was making up words. Turns out, disc-golf is an emerging recreational activity that is popular in urban natural areas such as city parks. Disc-golf is similar to traditional golf but instead of hitting a golf ball into a hole, you throw a frisbee into a chain basket that is raised above the ground. Like traditional golf courses, disc-golf courses will contain obstacles such as water features, trees, shrubs, etc. In 2011 there were almost 3,000 disc golf courses in the USA (including at least one disc-golf course in Wisconsin!); up from 300 in the later 1980s. I was actually pretty terrible at disc-golf the one time that I played and most of my throws resulted in the Frisbee being stuck in the trees.
Anyway, back to the research part of this post…emerging recreational activities, like disc-golf, are particularly challenging for managers to deal with. Managers often have to make decisions about how to manage new activities without much information about the social and ecological components of the activity. Therefore, emerging recreational activities can be really interesting topics of study in the field of recreation research. Back in 2013, Yu-Fai Leung and some of his graduate students decided to examine the social and ecological aspects of managing disc-golf activities. They were interested in answering three questions: (1) How does the public perceive disc-golf as a recreational activity? (2) Is there evidence that disc-golf has environmental impacts? and (3) How can this information be used to inform the management of disc-golf?
September 3rd, 2014 was the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. In recognition of this anniversary, President Obama has declared September 2014 as “National Wilderness Month”. In the official Presidential Proclamation, President Obama “invite[s] all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.” As part of my personal celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the following post will be all about designated wilderness in the US.
On Friday, Jon Jarvis the Director of the National Park Service signed a policy memorandum that prohibits the “launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service.” The common term for such an unmanned aircraft is “drone”. As the cost of drones has decreased, their popularity outside of the commercial sector has increased and drones had become a more common sight in National Parks recently. You can buy a drone on Amazon for a mere $300 that is already outfitted with 720p HD video that can be live streamed to your tablet or smartphone. Heck, if you’re a student at the University of South Florida you can even check a drone out of the library! To see one way that drones were being used in National Parks check out the video below taken by a visitor with a drone at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park.
Each April, by presidential proclamation, there is a week dedicated to celebrating the 401 units of the National Park system. This years National Park Week will be from April 19th through the 27th; with the weekend of April 19th and 20th being a fee free weekend! The National Park Service teams up with the National Parks Foundation to present National Park Week and this year their theme is “National Parks: Go Wild!”. You see watch the promotional video below that was built on that theme (the music is a little strange…).
There are various events planned at each individual unit of the National Park system to celebrate National Park Week. To find out what is happening at a park near you, go the events calendar and search for nearby parks. But some of the days of the week are themed. For example, April 26th is National Junior Rangers day! National Park Week is also coinciding with Earth Day this year. Earth Day is April 22nd and parks are encouraging people to volunteer their time at a National Park that day. You can find volunteer opportunities here.
Overall, the point of the week is just to go out and celebrate our nation’s natural areas, cultural history, and heritage. Last year I spent some of National Park Week 2013 in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This year, I will have to stay closer to home, maybe a day trip to Golden Spike National Historic Site?
What are you doing to celebrate National Park Week?