A vintage fake-wood paneled SUV is bringing the parks to the people.
"There's nothing that says Iconic National Parks more than a Jeep Wagoneer,” said Eric Sheckler, who, along with Julie Johnson, is hoping to raise enough money on Kickstarter to turn the idea of the traditional park visitor center inside out – and get it on the road in the form of an 80’s era Jeep Wagoneer.
It's called a Mobile Visitor Center – or more poetically: "This is basically a food truck for the soul,” Johnson explained.
The plan is to purchase a Wagoneer (the one they are using for the campaign already belongs to a generous soul who is letting them borrow it for things like Kickstarter campaigns and Evening shoots), stuff it full of information, and use it to inspire underserved populations to get out there and visit Washington's three national parks. Their BounceBox Mobile Visitor Center Kickstarter video site puts it this way:
"Sure, 5 million people visited Washington's National Parks in 2016 -- but there are tons of people who have spent their entire lives looking at Mount Rainier, the North Cascades, Olympic National Park from every possible angle -- online, out the window, in print, in books, on TV, out the plane window, without ever actually visiting them.”
The vehicle choice was informed by a Wagoneer Sheckler once owned:
"People would run up to my car and hug it at the gas station, so we know for a fact that there's a lot of goodwill, a lot of strong positive emotions and memories tied up in these vehicles."
One underserved population these two have in mind: newcomers.
"Eric and I work with people all the time who are brand-new to the area, to the country even and they are excited to go out there but they don't necessarily know how to do it,” said Johnson. "So that's what we want to do is bring the parks in so that the people feel comfortable going out into the parks."
If the project funds, donors will get cool swag from key rings to camping trips.
"We're doing personalized honks - if you donate $7, what we'll do is we'll honk and you have to listen for yours!” Johnson said.
But the real prize will be getting more people connected to Washington's National Parks.