New high-def webcams offer a clearer view of Paradise, mountain

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comNovember 17, 2013 

An image taken from a new webcam facing west toward the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK

Visitors planning a trip to Paradise — or Mount Rainier lovers stuck in their cubicles — can get a clearer view thanks to new webcams installed last month.

You can view the images at nps.gov/mora/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

The park purchased new high-definition web cameras using $13,000 in Intelligent Transportation System project funds, said deputy superintendent Tracy Swartout. The money was spent before the federal government shut down in mid-October.

The funding comes from the “Transit in Parks” program administered by the Federal Transit Administration. In previous years, the park has used funds from that program to operate the shuttle bus system to Paradise.

The new high definition Axis cameras use a special wide-angle lens that produce much better images than the older cameras, said park spokeswoman Patti Wold. The cameras also are designed to last longer, withstand harsher environments and have video capabilities.

The original plan called for the cameras to be installed to replace older-technology equipment late this year.

But during the shutdown, staffers who were still working in the park pointed out to the team managing the park that the cameras were ready to be installed. Doing the swap during the shutdown would provide a tool for the limited ranger staff to instantly check facility and weather conditions and status of key structures and facilities remotely, Wold said.

Because only about 20 staffers worked each day of the shutdown, the decision was made to go ahead with the camera installation as a means to assist with park shutdown operations and take advantage of the reduced staffing in the offices adjacent to the camera location, Wold said.

The cameras offer much better views looking east toward Paradise Inn, looking at the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center and looking toward the mountain.

Swartout said the three old cameras will be installed elsewhere.

From Oct. 17-Nov. 6, the webpage for the cameras attracted an average of more than 1,900 views a day.

“The cameras ... will eventually be used primarily for ITS applications, broad park operational use for road, weather and facility condition monitoring,” Swartout said. “The ITS project is the source of the funding for these replacements, but we are fortunate in that the public webcam views are actually a byproduct of these transportation improvement capabilities. Of course, they are now seen by the public daily and well-used for trip planning purposes.”

September visits

Mount Rainier

September 2013: 154,566

September 2012: 185,340

Difference: -16.6 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 1,033,124

Year-to-date 2012: 954,820

Difference: 8.2 percent

Heavy and constant rain early in the month kept the crowds away, resulting in a decline in recreational visits in September. It also was the lowest count for that month in more than a decade. Still, the park’s recreation visits through the end of September topped 1 million. The park is on pace to approach the 1.19 million recreational visits in 2010.

Olympic

September 2013: 373,850

September 2012: 417,768

Difference: -10.51 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 2,756,293

Year-to-date 2012: 2,489,836

Difference: 10.7 percent

While September recreational visits were down more than 10 percent, the park continues to have a good year overall. Total visits through the end of September were up almost 17 percent compared with 2012. The nine-month count is the best since 2008, when there were 2,800,923 through September.

National Park Service

September 2013: 27,875,222

September 2012: 27,928,341

Difference: -0.19 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 225,088,599

Year-to-date 2012: 233,356,982

Difference: -3.54 percent

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.com thenewstribune.com/outdoors

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