Social Media and Public Engagement in National Parks

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.

Me "participating" in the #sharethechair campaign at the George Wright Society conference.

Me “participating” in the #sharethechair campaign at the George Wright Society conference.

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Happy 97th Birthday to the National Park Service

On August 25th, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act which created a new agency within the Department of the Interior called the National Park Service.  At this point, the Department of the Interior was struggling to manage 14 national parks and 21 national monuments.  The task was becoming too daunting and thus a the new agency was created with the sole responsibility:

“to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

In honor of the National Park Service’s birthday, I decided to write a short post about the first director of the National Park Service: Stephen T. Mather.

Portrait of Stephen T. Mather from 1916

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Elmo in the National Parks

When I was little, as in from the age when I began forming memories until I was in school full-time, I distinctly recall filling the majority of my time with three activities; playing outside, building things with Lego blocks, and watching TV. My two favorite TV shows were Sesame Street and Zoobilee Zoo (this show seems slightly creepy to me now…). Sesame Street influenced me so much growing up that for a period of my life (maybe 4th through 6th grade), I was seriously reconsidering my plans to become a marine biologist and decided that I wanted to work in Jim Henson’s creature shop making muppets instead. Obviously neither of those things happened but my childhood love and my current career path met one another this week when the National Park Service, Sesame Street, and the National Park Foundation teamed up!

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Happy 96th Birthday to the National Park Service!

Today, August 25th 2012, is the birthday of the National Park Service. The NPS was established in 1916  under the Organic Act to protect and preserve America’s “gems”.  The act was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson and Stephen Mather was given the job of the first NPS director. At the time that the Organic Act was signed, there were already 35 national park units (14 National Parks and 21 National Monuments) that were now under the management of a newly created government entity.

In honor of this birthday, the NPS has created a website dedicated to sharing stories and photos about visitor experiences in America’s National Parks. You can also donate money to the National Park Foundation as a ” birthday gift” to the NPS.  The website also allows you to share your birthday wish for the national park system.  Additionally, the travel channel will be showcasing some of America’s most popular and spectacular national parks starting at 3pm today.

The National Park Service has already begun gearing up for their centennial birthday in 2016. I already have my centennial NPS pin. 🙂 The NPS started their centennial plans in 2006, when they asked stakeholders what they envisions for the next century of national park management. The goals and visions were published this year in their “The Future of National Parks” report. 

Best place to watch the solar eclipse on May 20th? Our National Parks!

On May 20th 2012, a full annular solar eclipse will be visible from the mainland United States.  The last time this occurred was during the 1990s; you shouldn’t miss out on this relatively rare astrological event.  The full solar eclipse can be seen in a diagonal swath from California to New Mexico, partial eclipses will be view-able on either side of this band until you hit west Texas.   Annular, which means “ring”, solar eclipses are when the moon passes directly in front of the sun causing the sun to appear as a ring around the moon. A full annular eclipse resemble a bulls eye. Where will be some of the best places in the United State to view the annular eclipse?  Why, the National Parks of course!

Annular Solar Eclipse in Central Africa 2010 (used under creative commons license – photo taken by Tino Kreutzer)

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National Park Week 2012!

A more extensive post will appear after the semester ends in a couple of weeks and my daily schedule begins to resemble something normal again. Until then – exciting news!  The National Park Foundation has teamed up with the National Park Service to bring us “National Park Week.” The purpose of the event, which runs from today until April 29th,  is to raise awareness of the national park system and to also encourage people to get outside and be active. This entire week, all of the national park system units are waiving their entrance fees. So, find the closest NPS unit and go enjoy some free outdoor recreation!

National Park Week

Two New National Park Units in One Week!

Less than a week ago, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to establish the Fort Monroe National Monument and today the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.  Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park marks the 397th National Park in the NPS system.  This National Historic Park is located in Paterson, New Jersey and was a center for early industry in the United States. The falls themselves are 77 feet tall and located on the Passaic River. Historically, the falls were used for water-based power during the Industrial Revolution. The Great Falls powered cotton mills, the locomotive industry, and the silk spinning industry (to name just a few).

Paterson Great Falls on the Passaic River, New Jersey

In the coming months, the National Park Service will begin working on the General Management Plan for the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.  The NPS will work closely with the town of Paterson as well as other stakeholders to ensure that the park is managed in a responsible manner.  Public open houses will also be held in Paterson during the month of November to receive public input on the management of this new historic park.


Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park

Live feed of Paterson Great Falls