3 Ways to Make Parks More Social, Interactive

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In an effort to draw more crowds to local and state parks, many agencies are launching campaigns to engage visitors using social media tools

By Mary Velan
EfficientGov

In an effort to draw more crowds to local and state parks, many agencies are launching campaigns to engage visitors using social media tools.

Treasure Hunts
When showcasing the beauty and wonder of local parks, it is imperative to take advantage of all the available outdoor space they offer. To truly appreciate parks, many visitors enjoy exploring different trails to uncover hidden beauties while getting in some exercise. Parks in Lodi, California, have decided to kick off 2016 with some outdoor treasure hunts to celebrate the local Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services team, Lodi News-Sentinel reported.

The department created cryptic clues directing visitors throughout the local parks. The clues were shared with the public via the department’s social media accounts. All followers of the parks team can then follow the clues to find two commemorative medallions hidden in various Lodi parks. The goal is to not only connect residents and visitors with the local parks, but also create awareness for all the programs and services provided by the department, Lodi News-Sentinel reported.

A local sporting goods store offered to sponsor the event. This allowed the top two treasure hunters who find the medallions to receive one of the grand prizes: a kayak and a life vest or a paddleboard and a life vest. The hope is to encourage residents and visitors to explore the parks more frequently and try out new outdoor activities.

Tracking Wildlife
Another way parks departments are using social media tools to engage visitors is by asking outdoor adventurers to document all wildlife they encounter during their excursions. Colorado wildlife officials are calling on visitors to state parks and trails to photograph any animals and plants that catch their eye and upload the images through the department’s app. The pictures will be used to create a database documenting Colorado habitats so scientists can gauge the impacts of climate change on parks, The State reported.

The Colorado parks department created the iNaturalist app to collect images and sounds of wildlife in the parks from everyday visitors. Users can share their experiences or view what other visitors have seen during past excursions. The app also allows users to share and alert one another of new findings when collections are uploaded. Users can help one another identify what plants and animals they discover along the way. All images and sounds submitted through the app are added to the database with GPS locations so users and scientists know where the wildlife was found and track any changes over time, The State reported.

Optimizing Instagram
While some parks departments are creating apps and activities for visitors to enjoy, others are simply making their presence better known on key social media sites. Instagram, the photo-sharing social network, has been full of parks pictures for many years. Visitors will photograph their hikes, camping trips and excursions to share with friends through the medium. To ensure viewers know what they are looking at when browsing the photos, many parks have created hashtags to ensure their names and locations are included in the posts. Yosemite National Park, alone, has been tagged in more than 900,000 Instagram posts, NY Magazine reported.

Similarly, many parks departments have launched their own Instagram feeds to showcase breathtaking views, intriguing wildlife and adventurous activities all found within their grounds. These engaging photos have enabled parks to collect high volumes of followers on social media. Yosemite has more than 260,000 followers while Yellowstone has more than 90,000 and the U.S. Department of the Interior has more than 845,000 – topping the charts for government bureau social media followers. When viewers browse through the parks’ feeds, they are often inspired to see the wildlife in person, spurring many to visit the parks. After visiting, many adventurers share their own images which can further encourage other social media followers to explore the parks, NY Magazine reported.

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EfficientGov Staff

EfficientGov is an independent information service providing innovative solutions to fiscal and operational challenges facing cities and towns around the world.