I was fortunate to be invited by Senator Collins (ME) to attend a small private meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director John Jarvis. It was held at the Old Town Meeting Hall in Freeport, Maine – just down the street from the LL Bean Flagship Store and it’s Headquarters.

The group of about 30 people was mainly composed of state and federal agencies, non-profits and representatives from LL Bean. The topic of discussion: how can Washington, and more specifically the Department of the Interior, better work with organizations within the outdoor recreational industry.

After relatively brief opening comments by the Senator, Secretary and Director Jarvis, the floor was open for discussion, and when no one was jumping at the opportunity, I stepped up to the plate.

My comments focused on the the perception that technology and outdoor recreation were somewhat at odds with one another, particularly with regards to youth. Both the Senator and the Secretary had alluded to this in their opening comments so I saw an opportunity to advocated for viewing technology, such as the Chimani mobile apps for national parks, as a means to bridge the growing “outdoor divide” which exists in society.

I noted that the “digital natives” of the world (e.g. youth) are growing up in such a connected, device-centric society, and that this is the best medium to capture their attention and build appreciation for the outdoors. In fact – I advocated that it is an essential step towards building future stewards of America’s public lands.

I felt the message was well received, particularly by NPS Director John Jarvis whom I know has already taken steps to further address this issue with such efforts as National Parks Second Century Commission. In fact the Commission’s Committee on Education and Learning notes:

The national parks represent one of our nation’s richest and highest quality sources of educational content that can be brought to a much larger audience via the Internet.

(I would add to the end of this statement…..“and mobile technology”. )

The time when this report was written – 2009 – mobile apps and mobile technology amounted to a Blackberry. The iPhone was just starting to take off and very few people beyond the SciFi community had ever heard of Android.

When the Committee updates this report, which I hope it continues to do on a regular basis, it would be sure to reflect heavily on mobile technology, and more importantly “mobile learning”, and the opportunity it presents the National Park Service.

Overall it was a very positive meeting – all be it very brief. It was an excellent opportunity for the spotlight to focus on Maine and it’s outdoor recreational industry, and to have an open conversation about the opportunities in working with the Federal government.

On a political note, it was a breathe of fresh air seeing a Republican Senator who clearly has a positive working relationship with a Secretary of a Democratic Administration. Perhaps when the Congress reconvenes, they should do it in a National Park…they will likely get more done.