Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Connecting America's Parks

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Connecting America's Parks

Article excerpt

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Every year nearly 300 million people visit America's parks. They are attracted by the wide open spaces, waterfalls, biking, hiking, cave tours, and the opportunity to get away from it all. But at the same time, they expect and increasingly demand modern conveniences--from credit card transactions for souvenirs and boat rentals to WiFi access and everything that comes with staying connected. In a world where cell phone and PDA users complain about coverage in even metropolitan areas, the challenge of meeting today's technology needs in a wilderness setting can seem impossible. Laying terrestrial cables or constructing cell phone towers is out of the question--but failing to meet the communications needs of visitors can adversely impact park revenue as well as park management. However, parks across the country can turn to the sky for a connectivity solution.

For Park Management

And that solution is satellite broadband, which enables connectivity virtually anywhere regardless of location or terrain. All that's needed is for the compact dish antenna to have a clear view of the southern sky. Satellite broadband is already helping several large parks and distant ranger stations stay connected to internal networks, while providing visitors with the on-site services they expect. With satellite broadband, parks can run reservation systems for campsites and park activities, as well as handling point-of-sale transactions in concessions and camp stores, selling hunting and fishing licenses, and renting boats and equipment. More efficient communications can transform park operations and improve revenue.

For example, Colorado's Department of Natural Resources is using satellite broadband internet service to provide primary network connectivity supporting operations at 15 state park sites. In Texas, the Parks and Wildlife Department is utilizing a satellite broadband back-up network at 90 park sites. "Because satellite broadband does not rely on cables, wires, or towers, it is a sensible backup solution for our network," said Derek Marshall, IT Telecommunications Manager at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

In another example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides visitors with camp-side check-in across its 12 million managed acres in 43 states. "For us, it is all about the customer and providing a one-stop opportunity for customers to discover information, plan trips, and make recreation-related reservations at a wide variety of federal recreation areas, facilities and activities," says Greg Webb, National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) Program Manager at the USACE. …

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