NPS Spending $41K For Mobile App Announcing Old Faithful’s Eruptions

March 25, 2014 - 4:17 PM

Old Faithful

Old Faithful (National Park Service)

(CNSNews.com) --The National Park Service (NPS) is spending $41,125 on a mobile app that will give visitors and virtual visitors to Yellowstone National Park  advance notice of the "scheduled eruption times for Old Faithful and other predictable geysers.”

NPS’ Notice of Intent to Award states that it will collaborate with Washington State University "to reach virtual and in-park visitors by communicating accurate eruption schedules in real time as well as provide interactive, informational, and interpretive content" after the first version of the app is released.

Old Faithful is known for its predictable eruptions, which are anywhere from 60 to 110 minutes apart depending on the duration of the previous eruption.

David Restivo, Yellowstone media specialist and liaison for the app project, told CNSNews.com that “the app will provide greater efficiency in trip planning” and “alert people to live eruptions on the webcam.”

Brett Oppegaard, assistant professor of communications at Washington State University Vancouver and program manager of the app project, called Yellowstone “a great place to create more mobile activities” because “there are all these people just standing around Yellowstone waiting for Old Faithful to erupt and this would be a great time for people to learn about the geothermal science and history of this place.”

However, there are currently several other means of accessing geyser eruption times at Yellowstone:

  • Visitors at Yellowstone can view eruption times on an LCD screen at the park’s visitor center;
  • The National Park Service also has a Twitter feed which gives the times of eruption for Old Faithful and a phone number to find out eruption times for other Yellowstone geysers; and
  • There is an Old Faithful Geyser Live video webcam on the NPS website.

But Oppegaard told CNSNews.com that the app would allow park visitors to get to the geyser in time for an eruption and provide people outside a different kind of experience through a connection to the live webcams.

He views the app as necessary despite the existing means of viewing geyser eruption times because he says it “offers more mobility in an area where people are quite mobile. It allows people to interact with the moment in a different way. It provides a lot of different avenues for learning, participation, and mobility.”

After the development of the first version with just the times of eruption, Oppegaard added that there would eventually be access to the live webcam and a chat feature so people can discuss the eruption as they watch. There will also be a feature that lets people take customized pictures at the park and access existing Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Oppegaard told CNSNews.com that he believed the federal funding for the app project was justified because of the way mobile technology will improve people’s experience of Yellowstone.

He emphasized the need to “harness this amazing technology for learning,” adding that “federal funding allows projects like this for the public good to take place.”

On July 25, 2013, NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that “at the end of Fiscal Year 2012, the National Park Service faced an $11.5 billion backlog of deferred maintenance. This amount grows annually at a far greater rate than the Service is able to pay down.”

CNSNews.com's attempts to reach the NPS for comment were unsuccessful.