NPOTA FAQ (updated August 20, 2016)
Here's a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the ARRL National Parks on the Air program.
The NPOTA Activator's Guide is a good introductory resource for people who wish to operate from an NPOTA unit.
If you have a question that isn't on this list, please email us.
1) How are the eligible NPS Administrative Units for NPOTA determined?
Rather than engage in debate over the validity of what units should be permitted as part of the NPOTA program, ARRL chose to use the list of official NPS Administrative Units and Affiliated Areas as provided by NPS itself at www.nps.gov/aboutus/faqs.htm. This list from NPS shows official Administrative Units and NPS Affiliated Areas; it is this list on which the validity of an NPOTA unit is based. A unit must be on this list to be considered for NPOTA.
There are many places across the country which bear the NPS logo and are not part of the NPOTA program, such as National Heritage Areas, or sites on the National Register of Historic Places.
2) Why aren’t National Forests part of this event?
National Forests are administered by the United States Forest Service, which is a separate organization from the National Park Service. This event is focused on NPS and their Centennial; the USFS Centennial was in 2005.
3) Why Aren’t National Heritage Areas on the list of NPS units?
From the National Park Service web page on National Heritage Areas
“NHAs are not national park units. Rather, NPS partners with, provides technical assistance, and distributes matching federal funds from Congress to NHA entities. NPS does not assume ownership of land inside heritage areas or impose land use controls.”
4) Can the number of eligible NPS Administrative units change in 2016?
Yes, it is possible. In fact, it already happened once since the announcement of National Parks on the Air. There are several places that are being considered as new Administrative Units within NPS; if they are added to the official NPS Administrative Units List in 2016, they will immediately be eligible for inclusion in the NPOTA program from their date of official inclusion. The addition of the Manhattan Project sites to the NPS official units list is the first example of units being added to NPOTA.
It is theoretically possible a unit can be removed from the official list, but that is highly unlikely. Should that event occur, the unit would be removed from the NPOTA list effective on the date provided by NPS. All QSOs made from that unit before deactivation would count as valid QSOs for Activator and Chaser awards totals.
5) The rules say it's possible in some cases to hand out more than one unit at a time. Where is this possible?
We maintain a
where QSOs may count for more than one unit simultaneously.
6) Can I activate an NPOTA unit from a Visitor Center?
NPOTA Rule 8.a.1 states:
1) The Activator and all components of the Activator’s Amateur Radio station must be physically present on the property of the claimed NPS Unit, unless specifically exempted by ARRL in advance. Activations from parking lots, visitors centers and other property maintained by the specific NPS unit are acceptable. Operations from public sidewalks (such as in the case of urban units) are not permitted.
Any NPS-affiliated Visitors Center assoicated with an NPOTA unit counts for that unit. Note that the same rules governing access, permission and following NPS rules and regulations for that unit apply.
1) Is there a formal partnership between ARRL and NPS for this event?
ARRL has no formal partnership with NPS for this event, nor does a Memorandum of Understanding exist between ARRL and NPS. However, ARRL has been in communication with NPS, The NPS Centennial Office and the National Parks Foundation concerning National Parks on the Air since early 2015. We have worked with these groups to ensure as many NPS staff in the field as possible are aware this event exists and there will be increased activity from Amateur Radio operators in NPS units throughout 2016.
2) What bands and modes may I use?
All amateur bands are permitted, except for 60 meters. Cross-band QSOs, QSOs made through repeaters, digipeaters, Echolink, IRLP or any communications network that relays inter-station communication by non-amateur means do not count. A specific exemption is granted for QSOs made through the Amateur Radio satellites and the International Space Station.
Any mode may be used.
1) Do QSOs I make while away from my home QTH count for NPOTA award credit?
As long as all QSOs are made from the same DXCC country, they will count towards your NPOTA Chaser total.
2) Can I use a remote station?
Use of a remote station is permitted for Chasers.
3) Do QSOs I make with a club call count toward my personal NPOTA Chaser Award totals?
No; QSOs made with a club call count only toward the club's Chaser Award totals.
1) What is required for my Activation to be considered “official?”
For your Activation to count towards your Activator Award, the following items must be met:
a: You must make a minimum of 10 QSOs during your activation.
b: All station equipment must be physically present in the NPS unit you activate.
c: You must upload your log to Logbook of the World (LoTW) as soon as practical.
2) What does "as soon as practical" mean?
The Chasers you work will be waiting for you to upload your log, so they can earn confirmation for the unit you activate. Please don't make them wait long.... a week or so at most from when you return home. If you are travelling and won't be able to upload your log for an extended period of time, it's best to set expectations ahead of time. You can announce on the air if your log upload will be delayed, or post information on your activation on your QRZ.com profile.
3) How do I prove I was actually at the NPS Unit I activate?
ARRL reserves the right to ask for verification of any claimed operation from an NPS Administrative Unit. As an Activator, you should secure as much documentation as possible to verify your operation was legitimate. Some ways to do this are:
a: An official "cancellation" from the NPS unit’s “NPS Passport Program.” This is a free date/location ink stamp available for free at most NPS units, available at each unit’s main Visitors Center or Ranger Station. This is the preferred method of verification. More information on the NPS Passport Program is available at www.eparks.com
b: A photo of yourself in front of the NPS unit’s main sign or distinguishing landmark.
c: Image of GPS latitude/longitude coordinates.
4) Do I Need a Special Use Permit to operate my Amateur Radio station in an NPS Unit?
This will vary from unit to unit. A lot will depend on your operating style. If you plan on operating strictly from your vehicle with a mobile antenna on the roof, or with a small station in a campground, you may not need a special use permit. If you are planning a large operation with big antennas, or want to operate from an NPS unit we have deemed as “sensitive,” the odds you will need a special use permit increase dramatically. If you have any doubts, ask NPS unit staff in advance.
5) How can I promote my activation so people know I'll be at a park?
You can pomote your activity in several ways:
- The NPOTA Leader Board has a calendar of upcoming activations; list yours there.
- Post your plans on the NPOTA Facebook page.
- Tweet your plans using the hash tags #ARRL_NPOTA and #HamRadioInParks. Be sure to include the Twitter account of the NPS unit you will be at, too. A list of NPS Twitter accounts can be found here.
- Include information about your activation on your QRZ.com page. Many active hams look up a station on QRZ after working them; it's the perfect place to list information about your NPOTA activation. Be sure to include the name of the unit you will activate, the NPOTA code for the unit (i.e. "NP22"), and how fast you will upload your logs to LOTW. If all that information is on your QRZ page, you can refer stations there for complete information.
ARRL is not in the position to interpret National Park Service rules or regulations.
NPS maintains a general rules and regulations page here.
In addition, each NPS Administrative Unit will have its own rules and regulations. NPOTA Activators should review a unit's rules and regulations and contact the unit directly with questions before your visit.
1) Can I use a generator to power my station in an NPS unit?
Each NPS unit has its own rules about noise and generator use. Some parks enforce a strict no-generator policy, while others may have specific hours a generator may be used to charge batteries.
Generator use and battery charging by engine idling is prohibited in generator-free areas. During quiet hours, noise-producing equipment should be turned off. Remember that speaking loudly into a microphone can also be considered excessive noise. Please respect other visitors to NPS units.
NPS Soundscape Management Policy 4.9 (PDF)
This section of the 2006 Management Policies states, "Using appropriate management planning, superintendents will identify what levels of human-caused sound can be accepted within the management purposes of parks... In, and adjacent to parks, the Service will monitor human activities that generate noise that adversely affects park soundscapes, including noise caused by mechanical or electronic devices. The Service will take action to prevent or minimize all noise that, through frequency, magnitude, or duration, adversely affects the natural soundscape or other park resources or values, or that exceeds levels that have been identified as being acceptable to, or appropriate for, visitor uses at the sites being monitored."
Since National Parks on the Air will only be administered through Logbook of The World (LoTW), here are some answers to common questions about LoTW:
1) How much does it cost to use LoTW?
LoTW is FREE.
- · Free registration
- · Free download of the required TQSL software
- · Free technical support of LoTW and TQSL.
ARRL does not offer technical support for any third-party logging program, any other software or any computer operating systems.
2) Do I have to pay for LoTW QSO credits?
Not for the NPOTA award program. All three NPOTA awards are processed for a flat fee of $19 per award, which includes postage and handling.
3) Can I apply for NPOTA awards if I don’t use LoTW?
All NPOTA awards are based on the NPOTA Leader Board. The Leader Board only uses LoTW data. You will need to be a registered user of LoTW to submit QSOs for NPOTA, see your progress on the NPOTA Leader Board and to apply for all NPOTA awards.
4) Will you accept paper logs or paper QSL cards for NPOTA awards?
QSO credit for the NPOTA program will only be accepted through LoTW.
5) What if I don’t use a computer logging program?
TQSL, the free user application used with LoTW, has a free program that will allow you to manually enter QSO information and save a log file in electronic format; that file can be uploaded to LOTW for free.
6) How do I begin to set up a LoTW user account?
Click here to get started with Logbook of The World.
7) How do I get support for LoTW or TQSL?
8) Can I get telephone support for LoTW and TQSL?
Our Online Help Ticket system allows us to gather information more efficiently, which will allow us to help solve any problems more efficiently. Telephone support is available if online support methods do not solve the problem.
9) How will I be able to mark my operation from an NPS Unit in LoTW?
The 2016 release of TQSL 2.2.x will allow users to create station locations that include an NPS unit. THat release should be out by mid-December 2015.
10) Will I be able to see NPS units I've activated or worked in my LoTW User Account?
All NPOTA Activator and Chaser credits will only be viewable on the NPOTA leader board pages, not in LoTW directly.
11: Will I have to request additional callsign certificates for my NPOTA activations?
Users will not have to request additional call sign certificates for the NPOTA event unless they operate from an NPS unit using a portable identifier, such as W3IZ/4. If an Activator chooses to list their call in this manner, they can simply use TQSL to request a signed call sign certificate for the appended call sign. For more information, see the LoTW section on multiple station locations and call signs.
12. How does the NPOTA confirmation process work in LoTW? Where do I include NPOTA unit designators in my uploaded log?
Neither Activators nor Chasers need to include NPOTA unit designators in their uploaded log.
All logs uploaded to LoTW must include a Station Location. This tells LoTW where you were located for the QSOs in the log you upload.
For Chasers, the Station Location is likely to be your home QTH. If you're already set up on LoTW, you probably already have your home QTH as a station Location. Chasers simply upload their logs to LoTW the way they normally do.
Activators need to create a new Station Location for each NPOTA unit they operate from. You must have TQSL V2.2 installed to add NPOTA units as part of your Station Location.
Click here for a step-by-step process of adding a new Station Location in LoTW.
NPOTA units are listed in a drop-down menu, after you have chosen your DXCC country, State, and County.
Once the Station Location with the NPOTA unit is created, Activators sign their logs with that Station Location. All QSOS in that uploaded log now have that NPOTA unit as the QTH for those QSOs.
When the Activator and Chaser both upload their logs, and the QSO information (Call Sign, Date, Time, Band, and Mode) in both logs match, the QSO is confirmed. The Chaser receives credit for that NPOTA unit based on the Activator's Station Location, and the Activator gets credit for an activation.
ARRL's Logbook of The World Help Page has answers to many LoTW questions. You can also search for specific topics in the Help window, in the upper-left corner of the page.
1) I ordered a certificate early in the NPOTA program. My award totals have gone up since then. If I order an updated certificate, how much does it cost?
Each certificate you order costs $19, which includes shipping and handling.
2) Are there plaques offered?
NPOTA does not offer plaques, only certificates.
1) I live right next to an NPOTA unit! Can I hand out QSOs claiming that NPOTA unit from home?
NPOTA was designed to promote portable operations from qualified units in the National Park Service, to facilitate promotion of the NPS Centennial, NPS units, and Amateur Radio in general. It is against the spirit of the event to operate from a home station as an Activator for NPOTA.
Nevertheless, there will be exceptionally rare instances where this may be possible. Stations that claim to be able to activate an NPOTA unit from their home station must be able to definitively prove their home station is on land owned by the National Park Service AND within the boundaries of a qualified NPOTA unit.
Land adjacent to or within close proximity of an NPOTA unit is not sufficient.
Specific examples already ruled upon by NPOTA managers:
1) The city of Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas is not all within the borders of the actual National Park. A postal address of Hot Springs National Park, AR does not automatically qualify you to hand out that National Park (NP30).
2) Living on land not owned by NPS adjacent to a National Parkway does not qualify a home station to hand out that NPOTA unit.
3) Living on land adjacent to a National Historic Trail or National Scenic Trail does not qualify a home station to hand out that NPOTA unit.