The Source
Issue Date • Spring 2011

Interpreters View Information Radio as Cost-Effective Way to Reach Travelers

Texas Historical Commission
Interpretation of an Intriguing
Civil War Battlefield
Lonely Battle Site (1865)
Palmito Ranch Near Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville Texas Battlefield TIS
Radio is being used to convey the
story of the battle to visitors.
Are you aware that the last battle of the American Civil War was fought after the Confederate Army had officially surrendered? It was not fought in Georgia or Virginia but on a Texas Ranch just miles from the Mexican border. And, it was won by not the Union Army but by the Confederates! The Battle of Palmito Ranch is an the intriguing narrative, yet thousands of motorists pass within yards of the site every day at 65 miles per hour, never recognizing its existence.

To rectify this, a new information radio station has been installed at the historic spot by the Texas Historical Commission. The station, which broadcasts on AM frequency 1610, tells motorists on nearby Boca Chica Highway how to find the battlefield, and of its importance in American history. Since there is little to see today at the battlefield site, the broadcast program is especially important – designed to paint a picture of the battle – allowing listeners to imagine it right in their cars even if a disability prevents them from walking the site.

"Hearing the stories of those who came before us puts people in a perfect frame of mind to consider their cultural heritage and the importance of preserving it for future generations," comments William McWhorter, Military Sites Program Coordinator with the Texas Historical Commission. "As America approaches the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, one of the THC’s goals is to continue its efforts of enhancing interpretation and preservation efforts at Palmito Ranch Battlefield National Historic Landmark."

The station will also be used to describe area wildlife that visitors can observe, and to alert them to the presence of traffic stops and safety issues that may affect their visit.
Information Station at Out-of-Sight Location Near Palmito Ranch Battlefield
Palmito Ranch Battlefield Travelers Information Station
The broadcast range is a 3-5 mile
radius (or 25-75 square miles).
Historic Sites
Tell the Story via Continuous Broadcasts that Encourage Visitation
Robert Sperling of SPLKA
stands by "Light Talk 1610" antenna.
Ludington TIS Operator Bob Sterling
The best way to get visitors interested in what a historic site has to offer is to give them a sample. That’s what an information radio station can do. The stations have become our nation’s 24/7 story-tellers, encouraging passers-by to visit, all the while informing them about directions, hours of operation and special events.

Maury County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Central Tennessee has operated an Information Station for more than ten years in conjunction with Rippavilla Plantation to interpret the site and encourage visitors to stop in. The plantation was built by a family of French descent just before the Civil War and served as a gathering place for Confederate generals prior to the Battle of Franklin. Area visitors hear the story of the plantation, learn about tours and upcoming special events by tuning to AM 1610.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Ludington, Michigan
 
Big Sable Point Lighthouse & Ludington Travelers Information Station 
Operating on the same frequency but far to the north, Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association (in association with the City of Ludington, Michigan) operates “Light Talk 1610” to help visitors find and appreciate three historic lighthouses on the Lake Michigan Shore. The creative broadcast features interviews with volunteer lighthouse keepers, descriptions of the different lights, directions to reach them, hours of operation and dates of special events. See more of the Ludington Lighthouse story.
Rippavilla Plantation Mansion
Spring Hill, Tennessee

Rippaville Plantation Travelers Information Station
See also a story about the Andersonville National Historic Site, which increased visitorship 14% with information radio.
Iowa's Great Lakes
Warn Visitors about Invasive Species
Iowa Great Lake TIS Sign
Phil Petersen worked for 38 years at Motorola and is now working to keep Iowa’s great lakes…great. Working with the Lake Okoboji Protective Association, Petersen uses every tool at his disposal to educate visitors about how to prevent invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian Watermilfoil from taking hold in the lakes, which are located near the Iowa-Minnesota border. The newest tool – an information radio station. “The advantage of the radio station is that almost all cars and trucks have a broadcast radio receiver,” states Petersen. “This means the boater can listen to the radio message before s/he reaches the boat ramp.” With twelve boat ramps in the area, there simply is not enough staff to be at every ramp 24/7 to talk to boaters. The radio station, however, never sleeps.

Petersen's project is a good example of local, state, federal and private collaboration. The equipment was purchased and donated by the Lake Okoboji Protective Association. The highway signs that announce the 1640 signal were placed by the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Dickenson County Highway Department. The State of Iowa Department of Natural Resources holds the FCC license for the service. Says Mike Hawkins of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, “This could definitely take off and grow.”
Radio Bridges Gap Between Parks & Visitors
License-Free InfOspot Informs
When Museum Is Closed
Zane Grey House & Museum
along Upper Delaware River, Pennsylvania
Zane Grey Museum Travelers Information Station
A sign encourages visitors to "Tune AM Radio
to 530," when the museum is not open.
Information Stations discussed in these articles traditionally have a range of 3-5 miles. But the InfOspot Radio Station offers a reception distance more suitable for on-premise applications (approx ¼ mile) at approximately ¼ the price.

Requiring no FCC license, InfOspot systems are frequently installed at unstaffed historic locations to provide interpretation to visitors in their vehicles who are in position to view the site while they listen. InfOspot technology is in use at Zane Grey House (Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River), Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks; US Fish and Wildlife Refuge - Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge in Illinois and Cleveland Metroparks in Ohio.

Nez Perce National Historical Park in Idaho has operated an InfOspot system since 2007 and is adding two new locations this spring to interpret sites “whose isolation and absence of visitor services pose particular management challenges,” according to NPS’ Scott Eckberg. He goes on to state that the Park’s existing transmitter “has operated four years without interruption, in all weather, and the park's confidence in the system led to expanding it to the two other locations. This technology bridges a communication gap between the park and its visitors.”
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