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Hundreds of thousands of people helped Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument celebrate National Park Week April 16-24. The parks held traditional events along with a few out-of-the-box virtual experiences in order to reach such a wide and diverse audience.
"During the centennial celebration, we are using tried and true methods to connect with the next generation, but we're also looking for innovative ways to connect with millennials, in an effort to inspire new visitors to discover our parks," said Lake Mead Superintendent Lizette Richardson. "During National Park Week, we tested these groundbreaking methods and were successful in reaching hundreds of thousands of people."
Pacific West Regional Director Laura Joss kicked off the week in Southern Nevada April 16 by attending a cleanup at Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument and a National Junior Ranger Day event at Lake Mead.
At Tule Springs, the new park recruited eighty volunteers, including Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Steve Ross, who donated 240 hours to fill a 40-yard roll-off will debris. At Lake Mead, around 500 people stopped by the visitor center during Junior Ranger Day, and Joss swore in more than 50 Centennial Junior Rangers.
"Being a ranger is special," Joss told the crowd. "We have a very important mission to preserve natural resources … and cultural resources … so that hundreds of years from now, new visitors can experience the parks the same way you get to experience them….Today, you are going to join the National Park Service family as Junior Rangers. You will share in our mission."
Later that evening, the parks' National Park Week outreach methods transformed into groundbreaking territory as the Mayor of Las Vegas, an Elvis impersonator and a showgirl invited people in downtown Las Vegas to find their park.
The 3-minute video invitation that featured the trio and scenes from nearby parks aired on a 90-foot by 1,500-foot movie screen that stretches 90 feet above Fremont Street. It played for crowds repeatedly for nine straight nights, reaching an estimated 200,000-300,000 people.
Joss, Richardson, Tule Springs Superintendent Jon Burpee and around 100 park employees, partners and supporters gathered along Fremont Street April 16 to watch the film's debut among a crowd of thousands. The full video can now be seen on YouTube at https://youtu.be/188ak7MZG9o.
The virtual experiences continued April 22 as Lake Mead provided a 600-mile tour of the park using a "Twitter Mirror," a handheld device that can capture photos, GIFs and videos which are then shared with followers on Twitter. Park staff traveled across Nevada and Arizona to 16 destinations in two days to collect video selfies from visitors, staff and partners.
The videos were shared on Twitter and received more than 50,000 impressions. The video selfie compilation can be viewed at https://twitter.com/LakeMeadNRA/status/723667208866426882.
"Forever Resorts was excited to join our partners, the National Park Service, in celebrating National Park Week here at Lake Mead," said Rod Taylor, Forever Resorts regional vice president. "From welcoming the Regional Director Laura Joss to following the 'Twitter Mirror' through our park stopping at all our favorite vistas and landscapes here at Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, it has been a wonderful experience."
The virtual experiences were complemented with in-classroom experiences. Throughout the week, thousands of Clark County students began using Tule Springs' new teacher resources booklets that were developed with grade-specific activities for kindergarten through high school. As part of the rollout, the school district distributed a park fact sheet to each of the 330,000 students in the district and aired a Protect Tule Springs video in the classrooms.
"It is really neat to see school after school using these resources," said Burpee. The resources can be downloaded online at https://www.nps.gov/tusk/learn/education/index.htm. The video can be viewed at http://tv.ccsd.net/watch?v=HUGCEiJJVUkn.
National Park Week ended in Southern Nevada with a National Parks Rx Day event and a Find Your Park Day event that included a dog hike, fishing lessons, a campfire cooking demonstration, art activities and a scenic Instagram hike and workshop.
"This multi-faceted approach to connect with park visitors, supporters and advocates proved to be successful," said Richardson. "We plan to continue looking for new ways to engage our new audiences and introduce them to Lake Mead, America's most diverse national recreation area."
To view the parks' National Park Week photos from Tule Springs, visit flickr