BAR HARBOR — If you want to know all about the National Park Service (NPS) and its 417 sites across the country – from Acadia to Zion – you can visit its website at NPS.gov.
Or, if you’re in the neighborhood, you might stop by a house on a quiet street in Bar Harbor. The couple who lives there are in charge of NPS.gov.
Ginny Reams is the web content manager. Todd Edgar, the NPS.gov manager, is responsible for building the systems that all of the parks use to maintain their websites.
“We’re constantly making changes and improvements. Over the last couple of years, we’ve made some pretty substantial ones,” Edgar said.
One of those improvements was making sure all of the park service websites were mobile friendly.
“That was absolutely necessary because about half of NPS.gov’s traffic is mobile now,” Edgar said.
Another big project was the redesign of the website in preparation for the celebration last year of the NPS centennial.
“All of NPS.gov was given a big facelift,” Edgar said. “It was kind of like working on the bus while it’s driving down the highway, but it worked out well.”
He credited the cooperation of people in NPS parks and programs across the country.
NPS.gov includes more than 100,000 web pages with more than 1,000 authors contributing content. Last year, the website had about 90 million different visitors and 556 million page views.
Reams and one other staff member manage the content of the national pages of NPS.gov and assist the managers of individual park websites.
“We work with a group that coordinates content across the entire NPS.gov sphere,” she said.
Reams said the NPS Office of Communications, which both she and Edgar work for, develops a theme to emphasize each month.
“We base our website features on that messaging theme,” she said. “We find out which parks are addressing that theme, and we feature those parks for a month.”
Reams said one of the pleasures of her job is collaborating with so many different people in parks and NPS regional offices across the country.
“We work with them and help them do what they want to do,” she said. “It’s really rewarding to be able to provide them with the tools and the information they need in order to get their messages out to their audiences.”
Edgar said it is satisfying to serve as a bridge of sorts between the public and the national parks.
“If we can find a way to help visitors do what they want to do easily and enjoyably, that’s great,” he said. “If we can help a park or program figure out what they want to communicate and how to do it more effectively, that’s really rewarding.”
Edgar said he sometimes starts the day by talking with a web manager on the East Coast. “And by the end of the day, we’re talking with folks in Alaska.”
And nearly every day, Reams and Edgar talk with each other about projects they are working on.
“The majority of our projects have both the content side of things and the more systems side of things,” Edgar said. “It’s nice to be able to yell across the hallway and fact check something or make sure an idea isn’t crazy, and we do that with each other pretty regularly.
“There are also many strolls at lunchtime on the Shore Path when we try to figure out the best way to go forward on a digital project. Lots of things for the National Park Service get figured out during those walks.”
Currently, Edgar and his NPS colleagues are working with Amazon to see how its “digital assistant” Alexa might be used to provide information to the public.
“You could do things like ask Alexa to describe a park or give directions to a park or tell you what events are happening today in a given park,” he said, adding that the project is still in the pilot phase.
Because Reams and Edgar work from home, they could live pretty much anywhere. They chose Bar Harbor because they fell in love with Mount Desert Island when they both worked at Acadia several years ago.
Reams was the writer-editor for the park’s interpretation division. Edgar was a visual information specialist, working on the park’s publications and website.
They left Acadia in 2009 for NPS jobs in Fort Collins, Colo. About four years later, they started their current jobs, and in 2015, they brought those jobs with them to MDI.
The couple said another reason they chose to live here was the opportunity to continue their relationship with members of the Acadia staff.
“We know a lot of people there,” Reams said. “And they have been very willing to work with us to test out new [website] features so we can see how they work from a park perspective and how they might be improved. We greatly appreciate their input.”