National Parks Service Chief visits to speak about the use of communications

Sandra Snell-Dolbert smiles in front of a project during her visit to Western
Sandra Snell-Dolbert speaks to importance of marketing place.

For the sixth and final Communication Arts convocation of the school year, Western welcomed Sandra Snell-Dolbert to speak to students about the use of communications in the National Parks Service.

Snell-Dolbert has been with the National Parks Service for 30 years and currently serves as the Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Technology and Public Information Officer for the Curecanti National Recreation Area and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

As a young girl, Snell-Dolbert fell in love with the National Parks and grew up taking family trips to Yellowstone National Park and camping in the mountains of Colorado. It was at age 13, however, while at a Ranger program, that she would discover what she wanted to do with her life — or at least what to wear.

“The thing that attracted me was the (park ranger) hat. It’s the symbol for the National Parks Service,” Snell-Dolbert said.

As chief, Snell-Dolbert works with visitors of the Parks and the news media. She also works on how to market to visitors, which has grown more difficult over the years. “We try to appeal to modern day audiences, which is hard to do because it keeps changing all the time,” she explained.

One of the projects the communications side of the National Parks Service has tried to improve on is their use of social media. For example, employees manage Facebook pages to help answer questions people may have on posts or pictures.

“Say we post a photo of a waterfall and someone asks why it’s there, we can give the geology behind that,” she said. “It’s been very successful.”

Snell-Dolbert’s love for the Parks is still as strong as it was when she was a young girl, fascinated by Yellowstone and the beauty of the National Parks. Now, she wants others to have similar experiences and to want to preserve the places they love.

“We try to get people to make connections to these places. It’s not just about standing up in front of an audience and telling them the facts about a place. You can read that,” Snell-Dolbert opined. “Our strategic communication is more about getting people to know about the place and to love the place enough to preserve it.”


Article and photo by Roberta Marquette-Strain.

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Friday, April 15, 2016 - 1:00pm