Oregon Sea Grant Low Power Radio Study
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Low power radio information systems form the backbone of the recreation and tourism industry.

Effective communications serve as an information bridge to expand visitor information about available business services and heighten natural resource appreciation. Information technology can also convey messages about safety and recreational etiquette.

Low-power radio is one way to bridge that information gap. This technology uses a small, relatively inexpensive AM transmitter to broadcast short, pre-programmed messages over a limited area. Visitors can tune in from their cars or boats and hear messages about a particular locale, attraction or facility. The message order can be changed remotely, by telephone. Small signs in strategic locations tell people where to tune in to hear the information.

The following additional materials are also available:

Sea Grant Extension specialist Bruce DeYoung has helped state agencies, chambers of commerce and others test and develop low-power radio programming:

  • In Newport, Gold Beach and Salem, where Chambers of Commerce use LPR to inform tourists of events, activities recreational opportunities and traffic flow
  • At Boiler Bay State Park, where visitors can tune in and get tips on how to spot migrating whales, and information about the park's natural history
  • Preliminary Findings: Low Power Radio Project at Boiler Bay State Park, OR (below)
  • At Seal Rock, where a summer-long pilot project taught people about fragile tidepool ecosystems - and how to keep from damaging them
  • At the Port of Newport, where LPR informs passersby about the history, economics and sights of a working fishing port
  • At OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center, where visitors can find out about Visitor Center hours, activities, history and other information before they step out of their cars

Low Power Radio Project at Boiler Bay State Park, OR

Dr. Bruce DeYoung, Professor of Business Administration and Sea Grant Extension Specialist, Oregon State University
Erin Williams, OSU Graduate Research Assistant


The Oregon Sea Grant Program and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department collaborated in a demonstration and applied research project at Boiler Bay State Park during March through September, 1998. This project evaluated the effectiveness of low power radio (LPR) in providing coastal resource interpretation and safety information to park visitors.

LPR is a limited broadcast range AM radio station that park visitors can tune in on their car radio to hear prerecorded messages and real-time weather information. The LPR transmitter used at Boiler Bay State Park is a 100 milliwatt station, which broadcasts within a radius of about 0.5 miles. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission does not require licensing for this size station and commercial sponsorship is allowed.

Evaluation Methodology:

A LPR unit was installed and broadcast messages in Boiler Bay State Park during Oregon State Parks "Whale Watching Spoken Here" week, March 21-28, 1998. Throughout this week, the researcher spoke with park visitors to learn reactions to the LPR technology and gain suggestions for future educational messages. Many visitor suggestions were incorporated into the message script subsequently created for the summer research project.

The summer LPR messages included: Boiler Bay points of interest, Gray Whale natural history and migration, and a rebroadcast of NOAA Weather Radio over this AM bandwidth. Several research parameters were tested during the research project: how signage numbers influenced LPR listenership, and if a relationship exists between specific demographic characteristics of park visitors and their tuning into the LPR broadcast.

Visitor surveys were conducted three days a week from July 1, 1998 to August 2, 1998 during 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM. Each of the five weeks had a different number of LPR broadcast signs posted to discover if signage numbers and/or location influenced visitor listenership.

Preliminary Findings:

This synopsis reports on preliminary research study findings from a LPR study taking place during the summer of 1998 at Boiler Bay State Park, located on Oregon's central coast.

During the five week survey period, occupants from more than 800 vehicles (ie. cars, trucks, RV's or motorcycles) were interviewed on-site. Preliminary data analysis provides an initial sense of overall study findings:

  • Approximately 20% of park visitors interviewed during this study listened that day or another to the LPR broadcast at Boiler Bay State Park. If the broadcast continued throughout the year, this would translate into approximately 20,000 vehicles tuning into the LPR broadcast for interpretative and other information messages (ie. based on 100,000 vehicles annually visiting the park)
  • Over 40% of interviewed park visitors not initially tuning into the LPR broadcast said they intended to listen to the broadcast before leaving the park. Most of these noticed LPR signs while walking around the park, but were interviewed prior to reentering their vehicles and turning on the radio broadcast
  • More than 85% of listening park visitors interviewed during this study liked the idea of using localized radio broadcasts to receive park information. These interviewees recommend that Oregon State Parks continue LPR broadcasting at Boiler Bay State Park and also provide LPR information broadcasts at other State Parks
  • Almost 70% of park visitors interviewed on-site during this study indicated having an urban or metropolitan domicile.
  • One sign located at each park entrance alerting visitors to the LPR broadcast is not as effective as additional signs strategically placed throughout the park.

State parks in Oregon provide important sites for visitor recreation and natural resource education. With increasing number of visitors to Oregon coastal parks, tide pools and beach areas there is a growing need for site specific marine education to enhance stewardship, interpretation and safety knowledge.

Preliminary results from this study indicate that Low Power Radio broadcasts are a promising communication strategy for reaching park visitors with an array of useful information. Many park visitors interviewed during this study found LPR to be a great tool for enhancing their state park visit.

Sea Grant tests low power radio during whale watch week

By Pat Kight, 541 737-201
SOURCE: Bruce DeYoung, 541 737-0695

DEPOE BAY - Spring break visitors to Boiler Bay State Park can park their cars, turn on their radios and learn more about migrating gray whales and how to spot them.

Oregon Sea Grant, a marine education, research and extension program at Oregon State University, has teamed up with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to test low-power, AM radio as a means of getting environmental information to state park visitors.

Using a compact transmitter and antenna, the low-power system broadcasts a series of messages within a very limited range - in this case, about the size of the parking lot at Boiler Bay, just north of Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast.

During Whale Watch Week, March 21-28, the Boiler Bay transmitter will air a series of messages describing the biology, natural history and migration patterns of the gray whale. The messages also include information about how to spot the whales as they swim past on their annual migration northward to their summer feeding grounds off Alaska, and about Whale Watch Week activities up and down the coast.

Radios should be tuned to 1200 AM to pick up the broadcasts.

An OSU graduate research assistant will visit the park periodically to survey visitors about the broadcasts, and Whale Watch Week volunteers - on hand at the park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily - will also gather reactions.

State parks officials are considering using low-power transmitters in other parks to provide information about the environment, park activities and visitor safety.

The Whale Watch Week radio spots were written and produced by Oregon Sea Grant, with cooperation from Bruce Mate, marine mammal expert at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center.

The demonstration is the brainchild of Bruce DeYoung, Sea Grant coastal recreation and tourism specialist and a faculty member with the OSU College of Business. DeYoung, a long-time advocate of low-power radio as a public education tool, has encouraged development of similar broadcast systems to teach motorists about Oregon's forests, and to provide boater-safety information on the Columbia River.