Workshop participants identified goals to enhance the effectiveness of the interpretive services within Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument. These goals and associated actions are representative of many ideas generated during the workshop. Action items were used to create an Implementation Plan, a chart located in the published document but not included in this on-line version. The same data is in this on-line document, formating has changed to make it Internet friendly.
Interpretive Planning Goals
Evaluate and Upgrade the Arrival Experience
The park has a dated arrival experience. The park needs to evaluate the existing experience and upgrade components including directional signs, park mailings, telephone response times and more. Interpretive staff will need to work with the tourism boards and convention and visitor bureaus to address representation at the Twin Falls Visitor Center, Idaho State Parks, and other venues. Changes to the park visitor center, including moving to park-owned facilities along the Snake River, will potentially impact the other venues as well as impact park visitation. Handouts such as maps, site bulletins, and other publications need to be reviewed for accuracy, interpretive content, and visitor value both pre-visit and on-site.
Renovate Current Visitor Center
A top priority for the park is to rehabilitate visitor center exhibits and redesign exhibit space. Much of the leased building space is currently used as “behind-the-scenes” offices and storage. The visitor center feels cramped and unappealing. Current exhibits are more informational rather than interpretive and are marked with multiple “Do Not Touch” warnings. Hagerman Fossil Beds needs to purchase and install new exhibit cases that will provide easier access to the collection. The staff and displays within the visitor center need to tell the stories of discovery and scientific wonder. Rather than another simulated dig site (there is one on park grounds and one outside on the visitor center porch) the staff will develop and install a Fossil Study Area. This would be a CSI-like (forensic) lab environment for visitors with an emphasis on youth to discover what it is like to be a Hagerman Fossil Beds paleontologist.
Visitors will be able to use professional tools such as microscopes, measuring calipers, samples of index fossils, and dating tools to analyze bones, teeth, fossil casts, and fossils/trace fossils in order to ‘solve’ a mystery such as what animal it is, what happened to it when it was alive, reasons why the animal had this feature, and other possible layman’s observations as developed by Geoscientists in Parks during internships at Hagerman Fossil Beds.
Permanent Park Visitor Center
Park-owned property in the Bell Rapids area has slowly been upgraded with new maintenance facilities and soon a new paleontological laboratory. An extension to the laboratory, with a viewing window into the lab, could serve as the park’s visitor center and is conceptually being defined. This extension is generally supported by regional and service-wide leaders and would replace the leased building, be designed for visitor services, and include exterior walkways and stations for exploration of the park story beyond the interior exhibits and Fossil Study Area. Existing invested funds from Idaho Power (as mitigation funds) may be used to leverage construction of the visitor center and introduc an Arts Walk section as well as hands on stations for creating mock fossil casts.
Increase Opportunities for Youth to Engage with Resource
Programs for young children from Head Start to Elementary are well established at the park. The staff desires to make stronger connections to older high school/college-aged youth who may still have interests in learning more about the fossil resources. Ideas such as establishing an Explorer Post for career exploration and STEM study, creating a youth day camp with Youth Conservation Corps employed role models and leads, using Stay in School, Student Conservation Association, and Idaho Youth Corps or other programs to employ local students seasonally at the park will be investigated.
Augment Curriculum-Based Programs
The park has a strong interpretive and educational program for young visitors. During the next 5 years, we will continue to offer basic services and when appropriate increase the level of service accordingly. Changing educational directives and methods both nationally and statewide will drive a change in park offerings. Curriculum followed by Boy and Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, Future Farmers of America, 4-H Clubs, Frontier Girls and Quest Clubs, and Campfire Club needs to be studied and program offerings developed to attract participants and groups. Junior Ranger programs for other learning styles as well as advanced learners need to be established.
Reach Non-Traditional or Underserved Audiences
The bulk of park visitors are passing through and tend to be white, middle age or older adults. Along with reaching local audiences and youth, the park would like to see an increase in handicapped, multi-national, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic visitors.
A review of park materials, written, recorded, and on-line, as well as a review of park facilities, needs to be completed to assure materials are welcoming, useful, and appropriate for varied audiences. The park lies within a two hour drive of a population of more than 1.5 million people. The south central Idaho area is undergoing tremendous population growth. Hagerman Fossil Beds needs to attract these residents and build a relationship where they wish to return to the area for subsequent visits.
(Re-) Establishment of a Friends Group
Past attempts at supporting the park via a Friends Group have collapsed. Specific projects, such as networking with the area hike/bike trails, presenting youth day camps, hosting special events on park lands, or taking an involved role in the development of park property near the Fossil Lab may energize a new group with which the park can collaborate. .
Expand Collaboration with Partners
Park efforts with Idaho State Parks and other groups to assist with presenting summer youth camps have been well received. Establishment of a regular on-site day camp(s) to specifically promote paleontology, STEM/STEAM education, and resource-based volunteer projects is desirable. Developing a strong community attachment to the park, its story, and science education would be a main goal. Attendance at and/or co-sponsorship of special events and outreach opportunities needs to be expanded so that Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument can develop stronger relationships with park neighbors and the local communities.
The Twin Falls Visitor Center has offered space to provide park presentations. The development plan for the Billingsley Creek unit of Thousand Springs State Park (adjacent to the town of Hagerman) includes space for others to provide programs. Other opportunities for the park staff to present programs at meetings such as DAR, Kiwanis, Lions, Moose, Optimist, and Rotary clubs could be promoted.
Address Staffing Concerns
The permanent staff for Hagerman Fossil Beds consists of one GS-11 Chief of Visitor Services and one GS-9 Education Specialist. Three to four seasonal GS-5 interpreters assist with park operations and are shared with Minidoka National Monument as needed. This prevents the park visitor center from being open 7 days-per-week all year. During fall and winter on Tuesdays and Wednesdays the center is closed to the public. When possible, one seasonal interpreter roves on park grounds on summer weekends. During the summer the interpretive staff presents Saturday summer ‘patio talks’ at the visitor center. Staff participation in local special events/fairs is greatly dependent on available interpreters. The hiring of at least one ‘career seasonal’ interpreter is desired for continuity and because there is a need for a year round interpreter for general visitor contact. The ability to do visitor level research (as opposed to Doctorate level done by the staff Paleontologist) and to offer public programs on a regular schedule is desired as well, which would also necessitate additional staffing or capacity building. Adequate staffing also permits time off for training and off-site meetings/events.
Connect Hagerman Fossil Beds to Regional Hike/Bike Trail
The beginning of the regional Hike/Bike Trail development will include bicycle lanes on the roadway in front of the current visitor center. Information and interpretation geared toward this new specialized audience needs to be developed and made easily available, including related offerings by park partners. Once the regional Hike/Bike Trail is connected to park lands in 2020, the park will need to offer digital and web-based resources for hikers and bikers using the trail. A new map and digital app, bike-friendly waysides, directional signs and support structures (e.g. bike racks, repair stations, possible rentals) will be needed.
Diversify Interpretive Products
Moving beyond printed brochures and flyers, bulletin boards, orientation film, and waysides, the park staff needs to expand its presence on social media, look at new interpretive methods such as podcasting, app development, and user-generated products. Programs and experiences that take place on park grounds, offered at regular predictable intervals, such as kayak tours, guided hikes, mock excavations at the overlook area, and similar activities would better meet visitor expectations and increase their understanding and appreciation of park resources.
Last updated: December 20, 2017