ARC Announces Initial Beacon Award Winners

NEWS
Contact: Derrick Crandall

ARC ANNOUNCES INITIAL BEACON AWARD WINNERS

Washington, D.C. - The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) announced a new awards program – the Beacon Award – during Great Outdoors Week (June 6-10, 2005) to recognize innovative use of technology in visitor services and recreation management and awarded two inaugural Beacon Awards to efforts showcased at the Week’s Recreation Policy Forum. “We are delighted to honor teams from the Forest Service and the National Park Service who are showing us how much improvement technology can bring to enhancing visits to the Great Outdoors. In both cases, men and women with a passion for making the outdoors fun and safe – and for protecting our Great Outdoors – have applied technology to accomplish better results than traditional brochures and signs. And best of all, better communications can actually be more economical, too,” said ARC President Derrick Crandall.

The new Beacon Awards are a result of discussions at the Partners Outdoors 2005 meeting in February. Participants felt that a new awards program, involving cooperation among ARC and federal agencies hosting more than a billion recreation visits annually could encourage innovation and disseminate information on new technologies and alternative communications channels. ARC will invite each interested federal agency to nominate up to two outstanding initiatives using technology for improved visitor services and recreation management each year. Awards will be presented in Washington as a new feature of Great Outdoors Week beginning in 2006. Eligible agencies include: USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Federal Highway Administration.

For 2005, ARC chose to honor two initiatives as inaugural Beacon award winners:

  • jointly to the Intermountain Region of the Forest Service and the Forest Service Geometronics Service and Technology Center; and
  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The Forest Service Intermountain Region and the Forest Service Geometronics Service and Technology Center responded to complaints that many national forest recreationists didn’t know where to go – or where not to go – to enjoy mountain biking, motorcycling, snowmobiling and more on national forests. Pre-printed maps were sometimes available – but only at ranger stations and visitor centers. And in many cases, out-of-date maps actually created conflicts and unhappy situations. On-the-ground signage was expensive to maintain and could be overlooked or misunderstood. And specific immediate issues and closures – because of high fire danger, avalanche danger, flooding or special wildlife protection efforts – posed real challenges. The Forest Service’s solution is an Internet-based means to print out up-to-date maps at home customized to specific recreation wants and expectations. Now available for select forests in Idaho, the program has clear nationwide applicability.

Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area enjoys a very high level of visitation each year and has dozens of access points. It also faces a challenge because the area is a newer unit of the national park system and has a complex land base, entwined with private and other lands. The leadership team of the area has developed a new concept – the Pocket Ranger. Unable to provide enough live rangers to enhance each visit to the NRA, the team sought a way to make it possible for every visitor to have ready access to maps and guidebooks with pictures of wildlife, flowers and views and able to help those for whom English is a second language. The Pocket Ranger will combine the capabilities of a PDA, a GPS unit and a wireless device. Imagine a color screen, an audio capability, an easy indexing of the features of the park, all up to date and downloadable either at home or at the visitor center – that’s the future Pocket Ranger. The NPS team has recruited high tech partners, including Intouractive Planet and PalmOne, to join in this project.

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(June 7, 2005)