01/06/2016The year-long ARRL’s National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event got off to a strong start, with considerable activity reported on the HF bands and even some on the SO-50 satellite over the first weekend of the new year. Throughout 2016, Amateur Radio will be helping the National Park Service (NPS) to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Hams will activate NPS units, promote the Park Service, and showcase Amateur Radio to the public. During the first three days of NPOTA, “Activators” were on the air from 78 of the 483 NPOTA Units — about 16 percent of the total.
“Pileups were pretty strong all weekend long,” said ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X. “At least two units — Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut (NS76), and Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas (NS45) — were activated via the SO50 FM satellite.”
The program has 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 NPOTA Leader Board based on LoTW data, just as was done during the Centennial QSO Party.
“We’ve received an official welcome from the NPS superintendent of the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Executive Director of the North Country Trail Association,” Kutzko reported. The trail runs from New York to North Dakota.
“We appreciate your enthusiasm and engagement as we celebrate this 100th anniversary of the National Park Service,” wrote Mark Weaver, the Scenic Trail superintendent, and Bruce Matthews, executive director of the North Country Trail Association. “While operating from the North Country National Scenic Trail, we encourage all radio amateurs to participate in the NCTAs “Hike 100 Challenge,” to hike 100 miles on the trail this year; to get out, enjoy the fresh air, get some exercise, and take a moment to appreciate one of America’s great scenic and recreational resources.”
Kutzko said 400 new NPOTA Facebook group members have signed on since New Year’s Eve. “The Facebook group is the central location for all things NPOTA,” he said, “with lots of people exchanging ideas, tips, spots, and success stories. We’re also using it as the place to keep everybody updated on administrative issues.”
#ARRL_NPOTA, #NPS100 and #HamRadioInParks remain the common Twitter feeds.
“This NPOTA event looks to make the Centennial QSO Party look like a quiet night with poor band conditions,” Jeff Otterson, N1KDO, commented on the NPOTA Facebook page. Jeff DeKonty, AB3WM, reported that he operated over the opening weekend as N3P from both First State National Historical Park in Delaware (HP12) and Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania (HP46).
In an interview with Christian Cudnik, K0STH, on the “100 Watts and a Wire” podcast, Dekonty said portable operations for NPOTA were within reach of most hams. “I think about DXpeditions, and heading down to small islands north of Antarctica. That all sounds very interesting, but it’s not terribly achievable [for me],” he said. “NPOTA was something I could do just in a few hours on a weekend, and it really didn’t take that much of an investment. And it was also a great learning opportunity. It was my first time having to work a pileup like that, and it was really intense and fun!”