In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th
anniversary, and radio amateurs will be able to help mark the occasion
with the ARRL National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event.
“As ARRL just celebrated our own Centennial, and Amateur Radio is
often enjoyed in the great outdoors, it seemed fitting to devise a
program to help NPS celebrate their own 100th birthday,” said ARRL
Media and Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X. As he explained,
NPOTA will run throughout 2016, with activity promoted and encouraged
from each of the more than 430 official NPS administrative units and
affiliated areas across the US. This includes all 59 National Parks as
well as National Battlefields, Historic Sites, Memorials, Preserves,
Reserves, Rivers, Seashores, National Scenic Trails, and other units.
The program will have two participation tracks — Chasers and
Activators. Chasers will simply attempt to make contact with operators
in as many of the NPS units as possible. Activators will attempt to
activate as many of the units as possible. NPOTA participants may serve
in both roles. Chaser and Activator totals will be tracked via an online
Leader Board based on LoTW data, just as was done during the Centennial
Modeled after the Mixed DXCC award, only one contact with any given NPS
unit will be required, and no tally will be kept of NPS units based on
bands or modes. NPOTA will be administered entirely through Logbook of
The World (LoTW). No paper logs or QSLs will be accepted for NPOTA
credit. Each NPS unit will be added to LoTW as a “location.”
Three award certificates will be available: Chaser Award and Activator
Award certificates will be available to any radio amateur who has at
least one confirmed contact with an NPS unit or who activates at least
one unit, respectively. A station’s total number of confirmed or
activated units will be printed on the certificate. The National Parks
Honor Roll certificate will be available for any station that confirms
contact with at least 75 percent of the 59 National Parks activated in
An Activator can earn additional recognition as a “Five-Star
Activator.” While the Centennial QSO Party was an internal event for
radio amateurs, National Parks on the Air is designed to be a public
promotion of Amateur Radio’s capabilities. Various public relations
bonuses and activities will be available to Activators, similar to the
PR bonus points available to ARRL Field Day stations.
The success of the event and of the awards program rests on radio
amateurs’ willingness to operate from NPS units.
“Portable operators, this event is for you!” Kutzko said. “Start
thinking about how you would incorporate Amateur Radio into your visit
to an NPS unit. Whether you’re camping in Yosemite, driving along the
Blue Ridge Parkway, or set up in a corner of Andersonville Prison, you
will definitely draw a pileup. As long as you are on the property of
the NPS unit, you will qualify as being in the unit.”
Kutzko notes that depending on the size of a given operation,
participants may need to secure a special-use permit. “This may take
some time,” he said. “It’s possible the answer will be ‘no.’
Be mindful of the size and sensitivity of the NPS unit you want to
activate, and be realistic about your plans.” NPOTA Activators will
need to follow all NPS rules in whatever unit they activate.
In general, the more portable and compact your station is, and the more
creative and adaptable your plans are, the greater your chances of
success. While there is no formal partnership between NPS and ARRL for
this event, the League has been in discussions with the NPS over the
past year, and it is aware that increased Amateur Radio activity in
their parks is likely during 2016.
“It is your responsibility to be on your best behavior and not
interfere with other visitors at NPS units,” Kutzko advised.
“Remember, every time you visit an NPS unit for this awards program,
your conduct will not only impact the reputation of Amateur Radio
throughout the NPS system, but will also directly impact the success of
the next amateur who tries to activate that unit. Be nice, be courteous,
and be flexible. Demonstrate Amateur Radio in the best light
ARRL has chosen to use the list of official NPS Administrative Units
and Affiliated Areas that NPS has provided. Complete details on
National Parks on the Air are available on the ARRL website.
More information and rules will be published soon.
ARRL Northwestern Division
Director: James D Pace, K7CEX