Participants in the ARRL’s National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program have completed more than 1 million contacts! Activators operating from National Park Service units across the US and Chasers around the world pushed the contact tally over its goal this week. ARRL sponsored NPOTA to help the National Park Service celebrate its centennial.
“National Parks on the Air has become one of the most popular events in the history of the League,” NPOTA Administrator Sean Kutzko, KX9X, said. “It’s been fun seeing so many hams take part.”
Kutzko said the NPOTA Facebook group really helped drive participation, especially in the last 3 months, when it became clear that the 1 million-QSO goal was within reach. “Some 25,000 NPOTA contacts were uploaded to Logbook of The World (LoTW) every week since October,” he noted. “The entire group came together and simply willed the 1 million-contact mark to be broken. It was incredible to watch!” He said some real friendships developed among those who frequented the NPOTA Facebook page.
Those taking part in NPOTA made nearly 20,000 visits to 460 of the 489 NPS units eligible for NPOTA credit, including portions of the National Trails System and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Nearly 150 Chasers completed contacts with more than 400 of the 489 NPOTA units this year, while one Activator transmitted from more than 250 different NPS units in 2016. Kutzko said the activations effectively transported those National Park Service units via radio to all 50 states and more than 100 countries during 2016.
Kutzko said NPOTA garnered interested from hams at all proficiency levels, but he was especially gratified to see how it encouraged less-experienced hams to acquire new skills, such as operating a portable station on battery power, learning CW, or discovering digital modes. “Pileups from some activations rivaled those during a major DXpedition — if only for a few hours at a time,” he added.
Jim Clark Jr., an NPS Ranger at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site in Vermont, said NPOTA helped to generate greater awareness of his unit. “National Parks on the Air has afforded us the opportunity to connect with a much larger and more diverse audience than we could have ever imagined,” he told ARRL. “We are pleased and proud that the world of Amateur Radio helped us to celebrate 100 years of service to the nation.”
Kutzko said being able to blend Amateur Radio with the history and scenery offered by the National Park Service was a wonderful gift. “We heard from countless amateurs who learned something about our country while operating from an NPS unit and experiencing ‘the other side’ of a pileup. There will be other on-air events from ARRL, but National Parks on the Air was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I don’t think there will ever be anything quite like it in Amateur Radio again. I will miss it.”
Until month’s end, NPOTA Activators will make a big push to get on the air from NPS units all across the country in a final sprint to the finish line. Get in on the action as NPOTA ends with a roar on December 31 at 2359 UTC!