American Recreation Coalition Announces 2009 Beacon Award Winners

Washington, D.C. - The 2009 recipients of ARC’s Beacon Awards, which recognize outstanding efforts by federal agencies and partners in harnessing the power of technology to improve public recreation experiences and federal recreation program management, were honored during Great Outdoors Week on Monday, June 8. Winners of the 2009 Beacon Awards are:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its nonprofit partner, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, for innovation in the use of technology for visitor services and education related to the planning, promotion, and implementation of the 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to a robust new website with a great deal of information on the park's history and features, the partners used the information to develop themed sales items that related to the anniversary and developed an innovative partnership with other organizations in the area, including Dollywood, for displays and sales of the items.

National Park Service Office of Public Affairs for its new thematic website "National Parks: The Place to be for Family Fun." This site was developed specifically to provide a thematic and interactive approach to helping Americans identify and utilize the many ranger-led programs, activities and commercial visitor services available to them in the national parks and has been promoted actively using both new and traditional media channels.

Cindy Samples of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for her demonstration of use of new technology in creative ways to facilitate visitor enjoyment within the 261-mile long refuge, including cell phone tours, mystery geocaching, and podcasts to help refuge visitors find, discover, and understand the refuge. Especially exciting is her use of geocaching as a tool to reach new audiences and to use “travel bugs” to encourage visitation of many sites on this and other refuges. Her efforts provide information to actual and potential visitors – and even with those who may never have the opportunity to visit the highlighted sites. Cindy’s efforts included forging a partnership with the Geological Society of America replicable across the nation.

MonarchLIVE! for its exciting distance-learning adventure, highlighting current monarch conservation and research being done by K-12 students, citizens, and university scientists. The program reaches over 400,000 students through live satellite-broadcasts, making possible virtual field trips to follow the monarch butterfly migration starting in February from Michoacán, Mexico throughout North America. This wonderful way to share information and build interest in species conservation efforts was nominated by the U.S. Forest Service’s International and Conservation Education Programs and is an impressive partnership involving more than 20 federal, state, county and NGO partners.

Bureau of Land Management National Landscape Conservation System’s Landscape Education, Interpretation, and Partnerships Division for its Learning Landscapes website – an exceptional way to share large quantities of information with actual and potential visitors – and even with those who will never visit these special areas in person. It is also a partnership involving the National Geographic Society. This website provides visitors with information about the wide-ranging, dispersed, and diverse opportunities for recreation on 256 million acres of public land, organized both geographically and thematically.

The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) initiated the Beacon Awards during Great Outdoors Week 2005. The Beacon Awards implement a recommendation of the Partners Outdoors 2005 session, where participants felt that a new awards program, jointly administered by ARC and federal agencies hosting more than a billion recreation visits annually, would encourage experimentation with and use of new technologies and alternative management. Recreation-related federal agencies annually nominate candidates for the award.

Award criteria include:

  1. Innovation in the use of technology for visitor services or recreation management;
  2. Partnerships with for-profit and nonprofit organizations in the private sector;
  3. Efforts to share news of creative solutions within the agency; and
  4. Community support for the work of this initiative.

The American Recreation Coalition is a Washington-based, nonprofit federation formed in 1979. Since its inception, ARC has sought to catalyze public/private partnerships to enhance and protect outdoor recreation. Its membership consists of more than 100 organizations, including national and regional associations and corporations that represent a major share of the $400 billion a year recreation/leisure industry and enthusiast groups representing millions of recreationists. ARC provides a unified voice for recreation interests to ensure their full and active participation in the government policy making that is shaping present and future outdoor recreation resources, facilities and opportunities. ARC conducts research on a regular basis, organizes and conducts national conferences and meetings and disseminates information regarding recreational needs and initiatives through a variety of media, including its website, www.funoutdoors.com.