Wrapping Up the NPS Listening Sessions

NPS Centennial LogoToday is officially the last day of the National Park Service Listening Sessions. In just a few short weeks, the government listeners have toured the country coast to coast, north to south, and even on the web. A few things I've learned about the process:

1) As well as having public meetings, it turns out the Park Service have also been listening to themselves. When I went to the Seattle session, I was aware that many Park Service folks were in the audience, but none approached the microphone. They didn't need to. Each park has had a chance to submit their ideas through an internal channel. I talked with an NPS friend who told me that their regional office had called each park within that district one-by-one. Each unit was given the opportunity to pitch Centennial Projects specific to their park. So, theoretically, the voice of more than 300 parks have also been heard during the last few weeks.

2) Many people had difficulty getting to the listening sessions, especially those located in larger cities. Most meetings began between 5 pm and 6 pm, typically in the downtown core of these cities. So, unless you work in the downtown core, you would have had to fight through the evening rush-hour just to get to the event. While I live less than 20 miles from the listening location in Seattle, it took me over an hour door-to-door through traffic. I have heard from folks who decided not to attend the sessions in San Francisco and in Atlanta specifically because of the traffic/timing issue.

3) A lot of the folks who either wouldn't fight traffic, or who were located not to close to the events have been going online to register their comments. Today (April 2nd) is the very last day to submit your ideas for the Centennial Initiative via the web. I had heard about a week ago that with the rate of comments coming in, they expected about 5000 total to be collected.

4) Today is the last in-person public listening session, scheduled for 5 pm tonight in Flagstaff, Arizona. I've been surprised at the lack of reporting of these events in the news. Here in Seattle, Secretary Kempthorne had a guest editorial published in the paper leading up to the event. And, you'd think that having the Secretary of Interior holding a public meeting would be enough to at least garner a mention in one of the two daily papers in town the day following the event. But, I never saw a mention of it. The local NPR radio station did give it a 3 minute piece, but that was all the coverage I was aware of locally. There is a nice write up of the Hawaiian event last week [free registration required]. Of the suggestions offered in Hawaii, "eliminate the picnic facilities on burial grounds". Seems like a good idea to me. For more news coverage, try this google link.