In order to design the most effective interpretive and educational programming as well as employ the most effective techniques, park staff must identify intended audiences, both existing audiences who actively visit the park (onsite and virtually) and potential new audiences that well-planned services may encourage. Because different audiences have varied needs and expectations, specific interpretive and educational strategies and methods should be developed to meet the needs of each.
Audiences for the Hagerman Story
The typical visitor to Hagerman Fossil Beds is on his/her way to another park. Most visitors are attracted by the directional signage on Interstate 84, or a desire to collect NPS visitation trophies (cancellation stamps, pins, brochures, etc). A number of visitors are confused, not being able to differentiate between the many state parks in the area and the national park. At this time, most visitors are not coming to the park as a final destination. The flow of visitors is directly dependent on travel conditions. Visitation is considerably less in winter months. Less than 30 percent of park visitors attend a formal or informal program at the park.
Visitors are frequently confused by the dispersion of the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument facilities. The visitor center/administrative offices and the fossil lab/maintenance complex are located miles apart and not on the main grounds of the monument. Visitors in the visitor center are not able to see the park from it's downtown Hagerman location. Consolidating the facilities at the maintenance/paleo lab area so that visitors may see scientists at work, view the main park grounds from across the river, and access administrative functions as appropriate was been recommended by Washington level staff such as NPS Associate Director for Interpretation, Education and Volunteers, Julia Washburn.
Potential Future Audiences
This Long-Range Interpretive Plan recognizes that interpretive and educational techniques and audiences are intimately connected. It is important to recognize that all audiences are welcome and invited to participate; some techniques are better adapted to, or appeal to, particular audiences. Parks seek to appeal to a wide range of visitors of varied backgrounds and ages with different motivations for visiting.
Education groups may include students from pre-K to Road Scholar. Lifelong learning opportunities should be offered in addition to elementary and secondary school models to introduce adults as well as children to park stories. Transportation and time constraints may make it challenging for students to travel to any or all of the three separate park locations: the visitor center, the lab area, and the main unit of the park. Distance learning opportunities may be an option to expand the park’s educational outreach. Public schools in the area represent economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse communities that may also be potential new audiences.
The changing nature of cultural and ethnic minorities and majorities indicates the park must contain values that attract and interact with non-traditional users. Materials in multiple languages, programs that explore resources in a new manner, and creating an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere need to be identified and developed. According to census data compiled by the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Hispanic population in Idaho is growing faster than the general population. An influx of refugees needs to be supported and encouraged to visit. By including students from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind- less than 20 miles from the park- in programming assistance and visitor service options the park anticipates results in accessibility that will benefit many others.
Large extended families may speak multiple languages and have different cultural and spiritual needs. The park will strive to ensure that all visitors have a meaningful and safe visit. Planning programs and services that incorporate how the families may use the park (larger group size, picnicking, and family-time) will help attract these audiences to the area and ensure they have a desirable experience.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many locals living nearby may not even know that they live within or adjacent to the park. Staff will need to explore a variety of outreach methods to effectively engage and promote stewardship with these local residents.
Virtual audiences are visiting on- as well as off-site using a variety of electronic devices. They are looking for conversation, community, trip planning, current conditions, and emergency alerts using a variety of social and digital media. Since this trend is likely to accelerate, the park will need to develop strategies to use emerging technologies to reach these audiences in cost effective and sustainable ways.
Current studies indicate that youth are disconnected from historic sites. This disconnect may be a result of competition for time, family history/diversity/ethnicity, and lack of access. Exploring ways to effectively engage youth through service-learning projects, organized groups, and within family units will ultimately create opportunities for them to become future employees, stewards, advocates, voters, and decision makers. Improving student engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) remains a national focus.
Last updated: December 20, 2017