Amateur Radio Enthusiasts Put “Vermont State Parks on the Air”

Wet weather during a park trip 
When you visit one of our parks this summer, you’ll see people doing all kinds of activities: swimming, sunbathing, hiking, tossing a Frisbee on the lawn. You might also spot somebody with a radio transceiver, laptop or an antenna who looks like they might be engaging in top-secret government activities. Wait.. what? Don’t worry, these are amateur (or ham) radio enthusiasts who are broadcasting from the parks this summer in an event we are calling “Vermont State Parks on the Air.”

So, what is amateur radio, exactly? Basically, any non-commercial use of the radio frequency spectrum to send messages or communications. Many amateur radio operators enjoy setting up portable equipment at various locations to “activate” and contact other hams from all over the world.  They bring all equipment with them and assemble their “station” themselves, including portable transceivers, amplifiers, generator, and a computer for logging transmissions & digital broadcast. Special events are set up periodically where hams try to contact as many others as possible. The government requires all amateur radio operators to have a license, obtained through passing an exam testing on technical operating skills, rules, and so on.

Some equipment used during an activation 
Last summer, hams broadcast from National Park units all over the country, including several times at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock in a year-long "National Parks on the Air" event. Having done that, this year local ham radio enthusiasts are focusing on state parks. A Facebook group has been created for hams to post and share where they’re planning on visiting, and where they have been. You can take a look at the group and see pictures from their trips here:

Amateur radio isn’t just a fun hobby, it also has a very practical side. The government relies on ham radio operators to provide communication in times of emergency such as power outages. If there was ever a large-scale disaster where cell phones and the internet were not operational, ham radio would remain a reliable way to communicate with others across both short and long distances.

So, if you see any hams in the parks during your travels, stop and say hello- and ask questions if you’re interested! These folks enjoy what they do and are usually happy to chat with curious onlookers. In addition to your outdoor adventures, you’ll be getting a lesson in science and technology too. 

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