TechCA and California State Parks met online on June 9 for the Information Technology Division Update, a one-hour forum that outlined the departments’ ongoing priorities and initiatives.
California State Parks CIO Patrick Dennis, Chief Technology Officer Robert Blesi, and Data Architect Paul Banas led a presentation that began with Dennis giving a breakdown on the priority to modernize State Parks via broadband connectivity.
Broadband accessibility remains one of the state’s most pressing IT initiatives, and that’s also the case for State Parks in their partnership with the California Department of Technology to create the Statewide Rural Connectivity Contract.
The contract includes three major goals:
- Deliver broadband services in (roughly) 100 hard-to-reach locations. “We look at connectivity as a baseline for all things that we want to do,” said Dennis.
- Provide no up-front cost or an all-inclusive managed service so that departments can take advantage of additional funds in their budget.
- Offer value-added services such as automation, public safety, revenue generation, teleworking, video arraignments and more. Specifically, this includes ATMs, pay-by-phone applications, license plate recognition, and remote-controlled cameras, among other services.
The contract was awarded to four different vendors (AccessParks, TeamSOS, Technology Crest, and Wi-fiber) on an eight-year base term with one-year options for the next ten years.
The Statewide Rural Connectivity Contract will be first implemented in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California. The greater plan, according to Dennis, is to provide affordable broadband service to nearby rural communities like Borrego Springs residents, their high school, tribal post, businesses, and med clinic.
Dennis also spoke about State Parks’ plans for a new reservation system.
“We have a great current reservation system,” Dennis said. “The challenge is that our contract is going to expire at the end of July 2024.”
The current reservation system allows for reservations, tours, annual passes, and more, but the opportunity for bolstering the system will go hand-in-hand with the perks of added broadband connectivity.
In the search for a holistic reservation system that integrates data from added value services (ATMs, pay-by-phone applications), State Parks will be working alongside CDT to develop their next contract.
Together, State Parks and CDT will enter into the Project Approval Lifecycle and develop a statement of work for a request for proposal.
Ideally, the new reservation system will offer real-time campsite and amenity information, inform visitors of event and weather information, and move away from physical placards and towards virtual passes in digital wallets.
“Similar to purchasing concert tickets or entering a Kings game, you’ll be able to scan your phone upon park entry and we’ll be able to collect information about you . . . and be able to collect real-time statistics on visitation and how full the park is, for instance, in the event of crowding or some form of emergency situation,” Dennis said.
Following updates on connectivity and the plans for a new reservation system, Dennis noted that State Parks has procured upgraded wi-fi via the Park Partner Concession model.
State Parks does offer free, limited wi-fi, but will soon be giving visitors the option to pay for upgraded wi-fi.
Installations are expected to take place in 2022, according to Dennis. According to their ten-year contract with Access Parks, there will be mandatory wi-fi installs at 95 parks and optional installs at 107 others.
Finally, with the increased access to connectivity and the accompanying benefits, State Parks is looking to collect and standardize attendance data to create metrics for executives and managers.
Dennis put an emphasis on “collecting that data and cross-referencing it against other information we have in order to make data-driven decisions and the ability to reach out to folks to let them know that the State Parks system is here for them.”