It looks like a giant smartphone hanging on the wall of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce office on Main Street in John Day.
The recently installed interactive kiosk provides news releases, current weather, road conditions, fire danger ratings, active wildfires or prescribed fires and temporary road, trail or campground closures in the Malheur National Forest — information visitors to the area need for their travel plans.
The 24-hour kiosk also provides an interactive map to help visitors find areas of interest, along with live feeds providing current information from several websites that provide weather, traffic and agency information. The idea of the kiosk originated with former Forest Service employee Cameron Sanders, according to a Forest Service press release.
“Sanders’ efforts played a crucial role in moving this project forward and coordinating with the chamber during the early stages of the project,” the press release said.
Sanders, who no longer works with the Forest Service, told the Eagle he developed the kiosk and applied for and secured a grant for it. He said he was happy to see the kiosk up and running.
“I worked on a national pilot program for digital kiosks for the Park Service and the Forest Service for years across the country and was particularly proud of this model,” he said.
The Blue Mountain Ranger District purchased the $7,149 kiosk using a portion of funds from a diversity and inclusion grant provided by the regional office in Portland, Malheur National Forest spokesman Mike Stearly told the Eagle. The kiosk was manufactured by I&E Co., which produces a wide range of automation products, including All-in-One Touch stations and kiosks.
Stearly said, although the John Day kiosk has some unique aspects, a variety of similar kiosks are available to Forest Service visitors across the Pacific Northwest and the nation.
“We have made it a priority to try and find ways to share information, and with this kiosk we are hoping that we will reach more people within our community and our visitors,” Blue Mountain District Ranger Dave Halemeier said. “We look forward to seeing how this develops.”
Future plans include providing links on the kiosk screen to the chamber’s website and Facebook page to keep visitors informed about community events and attractions. The Forest Service is also considering selling maps at the chamber office.
Former Chamber President Jerry Franklin noted that the convenient and visible location of the chamber’s office on Main Street will benefit visitors and residents.
“This chamber is looking forward to a long-term relationship with the forest and the valuable assets this project will provide,” he said.