Friday, July 21, 2017

The Man on the River

Sand Cave
Ranger in Sand Cave
     Working as a Protection Park Ranger consists of many fun times. Spending time out of the office and patrolling makes for a variety of visitor contacts. The people that you will find yourself working with share similar interests and motivations as yourself. You have a sense of fulfilment knowing that you are fostering education, safety, and resource protection for the enjoyment of future visitors. All this is even more prevalent when the place you work has visitation from all over the world.

     A career in emergency services requires you to be prepared for anything at any time. Each day can hold something different or it could fall into a usual routine. One real challenge is to be prepared. Some agency refreshers and trainings mandate you to perform certain job essentials at least twice a year, but this is the minimum. The requirement is intended to keep Rangers' skills sharp. However, much more practice is required to achieve that.

     There have been a number of examples that have exemplified the importance of being prepared for law enforcement and emergency service situations alike. Potential for a bad situation unfolded last week. There was a man and 90 pound dog floating the river in a canoe. One of our Rangers contacted them a day before the incident and came back explaining, the dog would eat him if it could. The following day two Rangers contacted the same man. He stated, he’d been camping on the river with his dog in the area of the Green River Ferry. One Ranger informed him that it was a violation to camp within the area adjacent to the ferry and that he would need to see his identification. The man then explained he didn’t have any identification on him and no backcountry camping permit. He followed up by giving the contacting officers a name and birthdate that did not register with dispatch. A third ranger responded to the contact, who had been the one who contacted this man and the dog the day before. He quickly accepted the duty of going to a position with better cellular and radio reception in order to nail down the facts. Afterward, dispatch contacted the rangers with sensitive information for the individual’s physical description. The team of officers and dispatchers were still not able to confirm an identity of the suspect at the time. At which point the two Rangers contacting the suspect Terry Frisked him and found a knife he stated he had in his pocket and another knife that was not disclosed until he knew it would be discovered. The latter was mounted in a duct tape sheath in the center of his back (see pictures). The two Rangers responding handcuffed the man and placing him in the back of their vehicle in order to go to an area with better reception, in order to figure out a way to identify the man. The third Ranger came to the scene to kennel the dog. He spent some time with the animal and had to call on two maintenance employees to help kennel it without being bitten. The two Rangers taking care of the unidentified man could not attain an identity, so they decided to bring him into the jail to be fingerprinted. On the way to the jail, he asked the rangers where he was being transported. When they answered, he told them that they might as well bring him to another county's jail and gave his identity. The man turned out to be wanted for wanton endangerment of a police officer and attempted murder by lighting someone on fire after dousing them with gasoline. During transport he also stated that he'd gotten the dog from a drug dealer after telling him, "I’m taking your dog or I'll take your life." This man had been camping in park boundary for five days.

Gun Qualifications
Marijuana Processing

      Considering the person’s history, things could have gone very differently during the contact. The situation also very easily puts aside the belief that some visitors may have pertaining to nothing bad can happen in parks. This person was camping the river for five days with a dog that would try to eat another person, if given the chance. If the dog was removed from the equation, the man certainly had a criminal resume that probably should not allow him anywhere in public.

Concealed Weapon Found on Man with Warrant
Weapon was Worn Under a Shirt

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Some Things To Look Out For

Green River Ferry 

Site near Old Dam on Green River

Eighteen Wheeler headed toward Ferry
Boat SAR
     The Green River Ferry at Mammoth Cave connects the northern and southern portions of the park. The Green River roughly cuts the park in half. It runs from the Northeast corner to the Western portion of park boundary. The park's visitors use the river to canoe, kayak, and camp. Mammoth Cave allowed its river users to bring alcohol and personal floatation devices were optional, until this year. I've learned that almost all search and rescue incidents had a direct correlation with the consumption of alcohol (imagine that!). I've obviously only known the river as it is now, but apparently it has gone through an evolution within the last year. There was a Lock and Dam system taken out and has yielded a completely different river to locals and regular visitors. The Law Enforcement Rangers are tasked with making sure that no alcohol on the river sticks in the minds of visitors. I've seen a handful of tickets for alcohol violations issued to people after an overturned boat SAR incident.

     Ferry Operators have their hands full carrying traffic back and forth as well as being on the lookout for kayaks and canoes down river. The ferry boat can hold a maximum of three vehicles. Traffic problems arise when GPS units navigate visitors and even eighteen wheelers on a route right over the ferry. The ramp toward the Ferry is the major take-out and pick-up spot for canoe delivery companies. This area and its adjacent parking lot and trail heads are a close ride from the ranger station and have potential for building a variety of cases.
Roadway Copperhead
Trail SAR
     If you are hiking on trails, setting up camp, or even walking the pavement it's wise to be on the lookout for snakes. Mammoth Cave is a Biosphere Reserve because of its 53,000 surface area of land and many different species of wildlife. Park bounds house the Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake, both of which are venomous.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dirty Deeds: Time to Clean Up

Starting last Monday I began my time with maintenance, and with a park that sees a few million visitors every year, that is busiest in the summer, there was plenty for me to get involved with. Last week a lot of our focus was getting right into getting our hands dirty and pulling weeds. Because we protect the resources both historically and naturally a weed killer that would pollute the soil is out of the question. Even though the park is in an urban setting there is never a lack of weeds to clear out of the roads and historic areas.
We actually started right outside of the barracks (where I am staying) meaning I had the best possible commute for a couple days with the work literally being on my doorstep. Though the commute was easy the work certainly is not and working only a couple weeks with maintenance I am quickly learning just how difficult it really is. Thankfully it is still rewarding to be able to look back at the areas we cleared out and see immediately the contribution we have made. Though picking out weeds around the Navy Yard was satisfying, it was pretty awesome when we got to work underneath the USS Constitution in Dry Dock 1 and pull out the weeds there.
View under the constitution in Dry Dock 1
Also this week we were able to help a local NPS partner that gets local high school aged students involved in the Park Service. Their goal was to plant a garden area in front of the Commandant's house, and the work is coming along quite well. Armed with shovels and a bobcat we assisted with the transportation and planting of the trees/plants as well as locating the water lines running through the area.
Helping with the water irrigation system

Stay tuned for more coming this week as I continue my time with maintenance!

Goals to be a Well Rounded Ranger

Goals to be a Well Rounded Ranger  

Week 7

Hey, it's me, Brennan McAuley from cohort 5, currently in San Juan National Historic site.

My time in the Temple ProRanger Program has shown me the importance of getting to know and work with the other divisions. Take a look at not only what I have been doing with the Protection ranger division this past week, but what I have been doing in my time off with the other divisions as well.

My Time with The Protection Division 

First, I will update you on what I have been doing with the Protection Division. I worked in other areas of the park and further explored how the jurisdiction of the park was laid out. I continued being present for patrols where I observed several “enforcement through education” contacts. I worked on a risk reduction plan for the visitor parking lot. This included observing the parking lot for a while and picking up on potential hazards. From there, I brainstormed possible solutions and came up with a plan and how it could be executed.

 I familiarized myself with “Ethical Behavior & Core Law Enforcement Values” from a FLETC handbook. I found this to be a great building block.  In addition to all of this, I  assisted Chief Ranger Padilla in an interview for a term position for a protection ranger position. This was a great behind the scenes opportunity for me to learn about what, and what not to do in an interview. 
REMINDER: SAJU is an urban park, it just happens to offer a beautiful scenic trail!

Wonderful views of both El Morro and the ocean

Ranger Cuevas leading me through parts of the Historic Site 


I spent some time with Ranger Treu-Fowler the special use permits ranger. This is an important area for me to cover because, in many parks, this responsibility is handled by the protection division. I learned the ropes and was able to understand the permit and special use process. I even got to see a commercial photo shoot in the park!
Look how beautiful the castle is. 

I only planned on stopping by for ten minutes turns out, I am very interested in learning about permits so I stayed for a little over an hour (to learn about permits).  

Resource Management

I worked with Ranger Palle from the Resource Management Division. Ranger Palle preserves historic artifacts relevant to the San Juan National Historic site. We organized his work space to make it more inviting for visitors to observe his important work. We moved over 800 pounds of historic artifacts and rearranged his work tables. This work aided in both preservation and interpretation of the artifacts.
This cannon ball was discovered in the field at El Morro just ten months ago

Planning time 


I enjoy walking through the castles and saying hello and striking up a conversation with all of the Interpretation Rangers. They always have such a welcoming smile in addition to at least 3-4 facts about the castle and local history that I did not already know! This newly acquired knowledge helps me better answer visitor questions.
In addition to picking up historical facts, I learned how to both open and close El Morro and San Cristobal. This is good because it is directly related to security and the protection of the park and the contents therein. 

Taking the flags down for the night


After watching the riveting short NPS film titled “Rediscovering old ways, Preservation at San Juan National Historic Site”, I had to get out and see the preservation team in action. It was incredible to see the material in the film right before my very eyes. These men and women work so hard to preserve this enormous historic site.  

Boots on the Ground

All of the aforementioned teams are truly one big park family with a shared vision for the park. each team has its specific duty and tasks it must complete for the overall functionality of the park.  There is a monthly meeting referred to as "Boots on the ground". the atmosphere I experienced at the most recent meeting is one filled with positivity and free thinking discussions where everyone has a voice and can feel comfortable saying anything.

Can you spot the ProRanger? 

How about now ?! (Selfie tip: you cannot yell "Smile" when you are in the picture) 

*Only a select few examples are shared here for the sake of attempting to be brief. (key word  “attempting”)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Program Visit: We are Transferring! Temple --> National Park College

Just kidding!! I am staying put as well as the program! You will understand the title more after you are done reading about the amazing program visit this past week!

Presentation of Plaque to HOSP Protection Rangers; From left to right- Myself, my supervisor Ranger David VanNest,  and Supervisory Ranger Jeff Johnson
I was fortunate enough this week as well to have two out of my three ProRanger Program managers; Anthony Luongo (Tony) and Vicki McGarvey (Vicki), come out and visit me at the park. It is a required part of the program that they visit all of the ProRangers to evaluate how we are doing, if things are working out at the parks, and to get feedback from us and our Supervisors about how the program is operating for the summer. The program uses this feedback so that we can continually improve the program to make it better. Originally, all three of the managers were supposed to come, but unfortunately Adrian Fernandez (Adrian) could not, so, therefore, his request for me to find a spring to make him look younger goes unfulfilled, but there is always next time (Adrian if you’re reading this you look like you’re 30, so no spring needed)! On Monday night upon their arrival, I took Tony and Vicki out to do a small driving tour to get a head start on our schedule, and give them time to get to their hotel to rest after a long day of traveling! I first took them to our campground site, which was full of campers for the week, and explained to them the different types of things we enforce when we patrol the area. From the campground, we made our way to Hot Springs Mountain to drive up to the scenic overlooks for a great view of the city of Hot Springs. Along the way, I was pointing out what is our jurisdiction, what areas are popular, and talked to Tony and Vicki about how their travels to other parks this summer have gone. We made it to the mountain overlooks and were able to take in the great view, with a nice sunny evening with great weather, and of course a few selfies (never can have too many). Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, I was able to show Vicki and Tony the water jug fountains that are spread throughout the park that people from the city of Hot Springs can come get water at for free. We filled up our bottles, talked with a few locals, and then were on our way to explore the town. Upon giving them a tour of the town so that they would have some familiarity while driving back, we arrived back at the ranger station and concluded the first part of the visit, with great times had by all.

The point! Hot Springs Mountain Overlook #1
The second day of the visit started at 0900 hours at the ranger office, where I began by introducing Tony and Vicki to Supervisory Ranger Jeff Johnson and my Supervisor Ranger David VanNest. After our brief introductions, Ranger VanNest, Tony, Vicki, and I headed out for a walking tour of bathhouse row. While on the row we went to the museum and explored everything it had to offer, and had a little fun with pictures while doing it! From there, we got a special peek at the microbrewery operation next door and got to chat with the owner on how she got the operation approved and started, and how successful she has been thus far in her journey. After the walking tour of bathhouse row and our promenade were over, we headed back to the office so that Tony and Vicki could interview Ranger VanNest and Johnson about various aspects of the program, and on my job performance so far this summer. After a very informative and enjoyable interview, I presented HOSP Protection Division with a plaque for being a partner park this summer, as challenge coins were also given to Rangers VanNest, Johnson, and Chief Ranger Cully upon his return from vacation later in the week.

Presentation of Plaque to HOSP Protection Divison; From Left to Right- Tony, Myself, My supervisor Ranger David VanNest, Supervisory Ranger Jeff Johnson, and Vicki.

Next on our agenda was to go out to lunch with Ranger VanNest. Lunch was very enjoyable as we got to hear stories about where Ranger VanNest has been, as we shared our stories as well about our trips and the program. After filling our stomachs, we headed up Hot Springs Mountain to the Mountain Tower Observatory to go to the top and take in the 360-degree panoramic view of Hot Springs and the surrounding areas. While up there Ranger VanNest and I were able to better explain and point out different significant landmarks in the area. Unfortunately, after the Mountain Tower stop was over, Ranger VanNest had to depart and go finish some things before heading home for the evening, so goodbyes were said and he was on his way. Next for us was to complete the driving tour of the park, so we headed to the West Mountain Overlooks, then from there we went to Bull Bayou. Bull Bayou is an area of the park that only the locals usually know about and is a nice watering hole to go swimming in on a hot day. So the three of us hiked back to take a look as they were quite surprised to see this little swimming hole ways off the roadway where most would not think something like it exists. Our final stop before dinner was National Park College. I know what you are thinking, but in fact, National Park College is not associated with the park service in any way. It is a local community college which just happens to have the best and most ironic college name ever, something both Tony and Vicki dearly wanted to see, and of course, take a selfie in front of! To end off the day we headed to Superior Brewery for dinner, which is the microbrewery that’s in the park that we got the sneak peek of earlier in the day! It was a great dinner with delicious food and great conversation to go around! Well at least I thought it would end there, but too much fun we decided to go visit the local candy shop and pick up some of our favorites for when we got back to our places of stay! Many great times were had and memories were made, and we still had half a day left!

And now you understand the Title! Who would have known! This was a selfie must!

Tony and I exploring the View!

The final day of the visit started off with meeting again at the ranger office in the morning. It was my turn to get interviewed, so we started out the morning in the briefing room to conduct the interview. After the interview, we headed back down to bathhouse row to catch up with Meg and Paul, the Resource Management to observe them do one last water quality test on a spring so that Tony and Vicki could see what I did on the day I worked with resource management. I introduced them all to each other, as questions were asked from both sides on each other’s program and such, as well as Tony and Vicki being able to watch what they do. After the water testing was complete, it was time for us to go get ice cream and hit the gift shop before they started on their way to visit fellow ProRanger Angelo at Mammoth Cave National Park! After having some delicious ice-cream and losing the best ice cream shop competition to Kyle at Gettysburg, which I totally understand because well its Mr.G’s, we headed back to the office so that I could introduce them to two other Rangers before they were on our way. When we got back to the office, I introduced Tony and Vicki to Ranger Little and Canine Ranger Konyak, who was very excited to meet new people. This was a great opportunity for them to see a ProRanger park with a canine, especially one who I have worked closely and a lot with throughout my time here so far. After the fun introduction, it was time for Tony and Vicki to begin their trip to see Angelo, as we said our goodbyes and drove off. Overall, it was a great program visit, with many memories made and new ideas tossed around during their stay. I heard that HOSP may even make it on their personal hidden gems list! Thanks everyone for continuing to read my blogs and support me, and I hope everyone’s summer continues to go well!

Hitting the Gym!

Administration Building

Musuem/Visitor Center

Interpretation Desk!

What kind of rock is this? 

Picture of Tony Taking a picture of Bull Bayou

Ranger Little and K9 Konyak