In August of 2007, with the financial support of the Dominion Foundation and others, the Virginia State Parks successfully completed the launch of the nation’s first and most ambitious electronic interpretive information program specifically designed for visitors to a State Park system.
The installation and launch of the project had been planned to coincide with the Jamestown 400th Anniversary Celebration. Initially, the Information Station project was scheduled so that Virginia’s original six State Parks, which opened concurrently in 1936 would have Information Stations in place for the 400th Anniversary Celebration, with the remaining twenty-five park’s systems to be completed in 2008. However, in a bold and unprecedented move, Imperial Multimedia and the Virginia State Parks worked together and completed the installation of the entire system, in all thirty-one parks, more than six months ahead of the original schedule.
RESPONSE AND RECOGNITION
The resulting response from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the media, and most importantly the park guests, was enthusiastic and widespread. During the three month period from August 1st through October 31st, 2007 the Information Stations recorded more than sixty thousand separate user sessions statewide. Nearly one-quarter million pages of park information were viewed by park guests during the three month period.
Accolades from the park guests did not stop with their acceptance and use of the system. The Virginia Recreation and Parks Society, which is comprised primarily of local park professionals, recognized the project with the Best Promotional Effort Electronic Media award during their Annual Conference and Awards Ceremony.
The project was recognized in Broadcast and Print media with articles in newspapers, special interest magazines and professional publications. The Information Station project was the subject of a feature television news story on the FOX News network in the Washington D.C. market.
Within Virginia's state government the project has received the recognition and applause of many. During the unveiling of the system at First Landing State Park, Governor Kane remarked to the press, "The amount of information in this system is really amazing. This system enhances a park visitor's stay by providing information on the park, nearby attractions, and even local emergency information. These interactive kiosks also can help a visitor plan future visits to our state park system."
Park managers, staff, and volunteers have also embraced the system. Lee Wilcox of Twin Lakes State Park shared this experience, "Our kiosk is located just outside my office window, so I get to see firsthand visitors using the device. Prior to us having the kiosk, whenever I saw someone pull up in our parking lot, I would habitually get up from my desk and head to the lobby to greet them, whether they came inside our facility or not. Now that the kiosk is in place, there have been numerous occasions where I see a vehicle pull up, people get out, start for our door, but then hesitate and begin studying this mysterious new machine. After a few minutes of playing with it, most of them simply print off a couple of sheets and then head on their merry way down the road."
"The kiosk is very heavily utilized at Fairy Stone State Park." says John Grooms, Park Manager, Fairy Stone State Park. "We have noticed that when one person is coming in to the office to register, others are using the kiosk while they are waiting. Also, since we have limited information to pass out about the other state parks, it is extremely beneficial that the kiosk contains so much detail on all the Virginia State Parks." Dominion volunteers and others who give of their time, talent and treasure to support the parks have been equally excited about the project. Johnny Finch, president of the Virginia Association for Parks, a support organization consisting entirely of park volunteers, said the kiosks are "...a big plus. They'll be especially helpful in parks where there isn't always someone there to give out information, or to serve visitors at hours where information centers are closed down."