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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Conservation outreach centers around technology

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Plymouth County Conservation Board is making a name for itself in the digital world.

Last week Molly Wilmes, conservation community outreach coordinator, explained to the county board of supervisors how she is using technology to reach the public.

"This is the technological age," Wilmes said. "A lot of people believe if you are not on the Internet, if they can't Google you, if they can't Facebook you, you're not out there."

With that in mind, she said businesses have two choices: ignore technology or embrace it.

"That's what we've done at Plymouth County Conservation," Wilmes said. "The three systems we use are -- Facebook, Pinterest and mycountyparks.com."

She explained that www.mycountyparks.com or www.plymouthcountyparks.com is the conservation board's largest database.

"You can get every piece of information you're going to need off that website," Wilmes said.

People can find everything from parks or hunting locations and rental forms to conservation activities and contact information, she said.

"It's very user-friendly," Wilmes said. "It's fairly easy to get around the website. It's fairly easy to print off information."

And unlike sites such as Facebook and Pinterest, people are not required to have an account to use mycountyparks.com, she said.

"You get the exact same information, if you don't have an account," Wilmes said.

The www.mycountyparks.com is also beneficial because it is easy to upkeep and inexpensive, she said.

"We have somebody to call if we have problems," Wilmes explained. "We pay around $35 a year for it."

She added that mycountyparks.com also saves the conservation board money because it helps eliminate postage costs.

For example, previously when someone wanted to rent a facility, a form was printed off and mailed to the person.

He or she filled it out and mailed it back to the conservation board, which put its codes on the form, and mailed it back to the person, Wilmes explained.

Now, people are directed to the website where they can print the rental form, fill it out and mail or email it to the conservation board, she said.

"We will put the code on and mail it back to you," Wilmes said. "If they don't have email, we will still mail it to them."

She noted using the Internet for that process cuts postage costs in half or eliminates them.

Getting the conservation board's name out via the website is just one form of outreach.

There's also Facebook and Pinterest.

Plymouth County Conservation's Facebook presence is increasing, Wilmes said.

"Our followers are growing every day," she said. "I would say we average one follower a day who 'friends' us or 'likes' us."

In addition, it doesn't take much time to update the conservation board's page daily, she said.

"I'm putting up new trivia questions, events we've got going on. I'm letting people know what's happening," Wilmes said. "It's extremely interactive."

She added that many people have mobile phones capable of receiving Facebook messages.

"We can interact with people very quickly and very conveniently for them," Wilmes said. "And it's free. We don't pay anything for Facebook."

Previously, the conservation board's Facebook page was updated only when an event was planned, she said.

Now, the page is updated daily with things like trivia, fun facts and having people guess the answers to those, Wilmes said.

"People guess wrong a lot of the time, but it doesn't matter," she said. "They get involved and then they come back."

Along with Facebook, Wilmes also gets the conservation board's name out through the social media website, Pinterest.

Pinterst is a pinboard-style website, allowing users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests or activities.

Wilmes compared the site to a "giant corkboard."

"It's a way to organize things you find, things you like," she said.

Wilmes said she put the county conservation board on Pinterest when she started doing the quarterly newsletter.

"People wanted to see an area where educators and parents and caretakers could come and find outdoor activities and crafts really easy," she said.

Wilmes said she considered doing a blog, but decided it would be too time consuming.

"Pinterest takes me 15-30 seconds," she said. "It's easy. It's very interactive. People can post what they like, what they didn't like."

Wilmes added that utilizing Pinterest gets the Plymouth County name out in a place it may not have been before.

She added that Pinterest meets the conservation board's education goals, which include reaching everyone, not just nature enthusiasts.

"It's important to get kids excited young," Wilmes said. "That's what the goal of this is; get them excited young."

Whether people are finding Plymouth County Conservation on www.mycountyparks.com or Facebook or Pinterest, it's all about positive name recognition, she said.

"We are never going to reach everybody in Plymouth County, but we need to keep trying," Wilmes said. "We are reaching more and more people very day."

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