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Mt. Loretto Unique Area on the day of the park’s ribbon cutting. DEC photo.

DEC members keep programming alive with digital campaign

By KATE MOSTACCIO

Now would normally be the time members at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would host events and programming to introduce the public to outdoor recreation and resources across New York State.

But NY on Pause and COVID-19 struck again, leaving members at DEC to find other ways of delivering that content to eager New Yorkers looking to get out of their homes.

Public Participation Specialist and PEF Member Kayla Baker has been hard at work behind-the-scenes to move the flow of information from in person to on screen.

“When we first started working from home we knew that a lot of our programming would be potentially at risk with New York on pause,” Baker said. “We came up with the idea to do a virtual campaign. We wanted to make sure anyone in New York state could do it anywhere. It’s important to reach audiences who may not have a backyard or park to go to, like in New York City. There are things you can do on your balcony, out your window or at a neighborhood park.”

The #AdventureAtHome main photo that is on the website and social media. DEC photo.

DEC’s Adventure New York morphed to #AdventureAtHome.

“The goals of Adventure New York include both infrastructure and programming,” Baker said. “With #AdventureAtHome, we want to encourage the public to get outdoors and try new activities, paddling, archery, fishing, birdwatching. We knew there was potential for those to be done close to home and we still want to engage people in outdoor recreation.”

The “I Love My Park Day,” in cooperation with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Outdoors Day have traditionally been big days for DEC’s Adventure New York program. Bans on large gatherings have prevented those from happening as planned.

Taking to Facebook, the department began its #AdventureAtHome series of videos and social media posts on May 26.

DEC Environmental Program Specialist Steven Wong presents the first #AdventureAtHome Facebook Live video at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Wong works for the Bureau of Fisheries and educated viewers on fishing.

PEF Member Steven Wong, an environmental program specialist with DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries, presented the basics of fishing at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the inaugural video.

Fishing clinics are typically more detailed than the Facebook Live presentation Wong gave from the park, but the goal of the day was to encourage anyone, anywhere, to try fishing.

“This video was really focused on just getting people out on their own,” Wong said. “We just want to get people fishing so I wanted to start with the most basic knowledge to get out there and catch anything. Everyone needs the fundamentals to start doing it. Freshwater fishing is really accessible to virtually everyone around the state.”

DEC’s public information office says license sales for fishing have increased dramatically over last year’s sales.

The Facebook video fits in well with the work of the Bureau of Fisheries.

“This is typically what we do, just not in the video format,” Wong said. “I work in the Bureau of Fisheries and part of our work is to manage the fish in our regions but also, in our region in particular in New York City, we do a lot of fishing promotion.

“Unfortunately, a lot of fishing promotion we do is in person, so we have really had to get creative and reach people and promote fishing,” Wong said. “This is a platform we are trying to explore so people can recreate on their own.”

Wong’s video took viewers through what resources are available on DEC’s website, including maps, pamphlets and regulations for different parts of the state.

Fishing during Outdoors Day 2020. DEC photo.

“New York City has a special regulation of catch and release only,” Wong said. “and everywhere in the state, there are particular regulations for fishing. Outside of NYC you can find places to catch fish to eat as well. Before you go fishing, check the DEC website for places to fish, all statewide regulations and to buy your fishing license.”

“The website is a great first resource.” Wong said. “The DEC fishing maps located on the website might show you the amenities at a location and or the species you can catch there.”

Wong’s video urged New Yorkers to stay local to fish and recreate outdoors. He said bodies of water with a stretch of bank with no trees, whether a stream, lake or pond work best for beginning anglers.

He explained the different rods and parts of the rod; how to tie the hook to the line; where to position a bobber to control the depth of the hook; and how to cast different rods.

The digital format of Facebook Live allowed Wong to present a steady flow of information.

“The process was less pressure for me to just speak normally rather than have a script and follow it,” he said. “For me, I wasn’t very nervous.”

Wong hopes his video will help New Yorkers looking to try out fishing. He also hopes they do so responsibly.

“We had a campaign about social distancing for COVID,” he said. “Fish local, stay close to home. Keep fishing trips short and avoid high traffic destinations. When fishing on boats, make sure they are large enough so that people on board are six feet away. If you are older than 70 or have a compromised immune system, maybe postpone your trip.”

Baker said plans for the next video are set.

“We will be talking about ways you can birdwatch from home,” she said. “Teaching people how to birdwatch from their window, from their backyard.”

A nature program in collaboration with NYS Parks is also planned.

Willie Wildlife Marsh on the day of the park’s ribbon cutting. DEC photo.

“The nature program with state parks will discuss how to discover nature while still being close to home,” Baker said. “It will be the traditional nature educational programming you might see at an education center.”

Working in an entirely new medium has its challenges.

“It’s a lot, it’s multipronged,” Baker said. “We have Facebook lives and crafted social media posts, at least three a week, highlighting the weekly theme, as well as a weekly newsletter Find Your Adventure that provides resources to over 120,000 subscribers. After the Facebook live, we have an engagement post to get people to comment or share what they’ve done that week.”

Visit the DEC website and view the #AdventureAtHome box to see weekly content related to that week’s theme. Sign up here for the Find Your Adventure newsletter for camping, wildlife viewing and hiking information.

“We are seeing a need and that’s why we feel it’s really important,” Baker said. “We know people are going to get outside. We wanted to promote our resources so people don’t just go on Google to get information. DEC has resources to help people find things to do close to home.”