News Release Beacon Awards 2013

2013 Beacon Award Winners Demonstrate Use of Technology to Enhance Recreation at Federal Sites

This news release is available as a .pdf here.

Washington, D.C. – The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) has selected six federal programs and efforts as recipients of the 2013 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. Beacon Awards were first presented by the American Recreation Coalition in 2005. Nominations are made by federal agencies and are judged against the award criteria – which are:


1) Innovative use of technology for visitor services or recreation management;
2) Use of partnerships with for-profit and nonprofit organizations;
3) Efforts to share news of creative solutions within the agency; and
4) Community support for the work of this initiative.

The recipients of ARC's 2013 Beacon Awards will be honored during Great Outdoors Week on Monday, June 3, at a ceremony in the Rachel Carson Room of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Stewart Udall Building. Honorees are:


● Bob Danley, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge

“For his use of social media to reach new audiences. As avian migrants arrive or depart from the refuge, as observation opportunities occur in association with nest building, brood rearing, pollenating and other phenological events, Bob Danley tweets, blogs, and electronically communicates this news to wide audiences that reach current and new refuge visitors. He updates and manages the refuge website as well as a popular refuge Facebook page. Bob has worked with the Regional Division of Visitor Services to develop new interpretive signage for the refuge auto tour route, incorporating QR codes into the signage to provide additional information for visitors with smart phones. He has also incorporated QR codes in the newly developed refuge brochure. Bob Danley has an extraordinary working relationship with the elementary and high school science teachers in the entire Bitterroot Valley. He often leads sessions within the schools and also provides curricula for home-schooling.”


● National Park Service Planning Program Use of Technology to Aid Public Engagement in Park Planning

"For innovation in the use of technology for planning of recreation management. The public can now utilize a new tool called Park Atlas, which will be incorporated into all planning projects. The Atlas is a geospatial data tool supported by Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data which helps the public, and NPS staff, understand the interaction among visitors, wildlife and other resources. The Planning Program has also developed a web-based program called Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC). PEPC allows the public to download planning documents to enhance information available to the public and then enable enhanced participation in the planning process. The Council on Environmental Quality has selected the PEPC as one of two pilot projects government-wide that best identify and deploy innovative approaches to increase quality and efficiencies in public participation. The NPS Office of Planning has also developed a monthly conversation called a ‘Planners Chat’ which utilizes webinars, streaming video and ‘video chats.’ Topics have included Wilderness Management, Civic Engagement, Community Partnerships, Climate Change, Visitor Use Management, and Spatial Mapping. Some 50 NPS staffers participate each month. These conversations have broadened the knowledge base of all programs of the National Park Service and provided a much-needed collaborative tool that enhances staff capabilities and promotes cross-department collaboration.”


● Bureau of Land Management Phoenix District's Cell Phone/Quick Response (QR) Code Tours

“For enabling visitors to combine cell phone applications with innovative QR Codes to receive up-to-the-minute communications from public lands managers. Visitors use their cell phones to call a local number and enter an extension that matches the location they're visiting. A recording provides safety alerts, fire information, safety tips for recreational target shooters, and recreational and/or historical points of interest. As the visitors travel designated routes or trails, they are encouraged to call from each kiosk, campsite, parking area, or other major landscapes. The message informs the visitor about major attractions ahead or resources available at gateway towns. Recordings can be updated at any time, 24/7. The educational scripts are also provided in text form. Smart phones scan QR Codes that take them directly to web pages and maps with even more information. The Cell Phone/QR Code Tours provide visitors with a method to contact and notify the BLM managers instantly. Using this technology, BLM reaches customers better, providing key information at specific points of interest far away from offices. The agency envisions using the recordings for critical weather, fire, and other safety tips as well as to receive alerts about problems much sooner than through its own field surveys.”


● Lisa Shon Jodwalis, Park Ranger-Interpretation, Bureau of Land Management, for Arctic Visions & Voices, a Journey through Northern Alaska

“For leadership on a 30-minute high-definition film, Arctic Visions & Voices, a Journey through Northern Alaska, which communicates the unique challenges and values of public lands in northern Alaska. The film is centered on the Dalton Highway, a remote, unique and challenging road which few people have the time and resources to drive. The summer season is short: from late May to early September. The underlying complexity of the arctic landscape and its stories does not lend itself well to websites or other social media. Cell phone service and public Internet connections are unavailable along the 414-mile highway. The film provides the opportunity to have the biggest impact on the most people. It is part of an integrated program of interpretive services including website www.blm.gov/ak/dalton, the Dalton Highway Visitor Guide, wayside exhibits, and the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center. A short version of the film can be shared and can reach larger, more distant and more diverse audiences, while the full version can be shared at special events and at appropriate venues well beyond Alaska.”


● Elaine Bernat, Webmanager for the Willamette and Siuslaw National Forests

“For leading web team efforts on two key forests to re-engineer and manage robust, NEXTGEN websites of great value to recreationists planning visits as well as those seeking to know about the forests' histories and current issues. The websites feature links to maps and brochures, to www.recreation.gov to reserve campsites and cabins, and for information on special events and important safety-related news. Elaine enjoys meeting the needs of first-time forest visitors and strives to make her websites inviting to those considering a visit from either nearby or during a visit from another nation. Her enthusiasm, leadership and technology insights have helped to create a visitor-focused staff, understanding the importance of telling virtual visitors about a remarkable array of recreational choices, special corridors including scenic byways and about the need for - and how to obtain - recreation passes.”


● USACE Park Ranger John W. Wargo for Use of Technology to Promote Water and Boating Safety

“For creative and innovative use of technology to promote water and boating safety at Alum Creek Lake and throughout the central Ohio region. John Wargo championed the purchase of an animated Safety Boat robot for use in educational programs, exhibits, parades and fairs as a key element in an aggressive water and boating safety program to reduce drowning at USACE lakes. He linked the robot to the Corps of Engineers by naming it Corey the Safety Boat and customizing its messaging. His experience and skill at operating the robot, combined with his professional communication skills, have made a distinct and popular visitor service impact on education of youth and promotion of water and boating safety. His appearances at special events are promoted and shared by local news media and boating and tourism organizations, resulting in photos and stories in newspapers, on websites and in social media. John uses his many professional contacts to locate online news of special projects, news releases, new products, and promotions related to water safety. He then shares this information with his peers in the Corps locally and nationally.”

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