Wednesday, November 18, 2015

“It’s better late than never.”

My name is Kelechi Akabogu and I’m the lucky ProRanger student who got to spend her summer in the magnificent Yosemite National Park. I am currently a Criminal Justice senior and would likely graduate by May 2016 from Temple University.
This summer (June-August 2015) was by far the best summer I have ever had in my entire life. It was my first internship in the ProRanger program and the experience in Yosemite was the best. I got to experience a totally different part of the United States, opened my horizons and embraced different kinds of challenges. This summer was the first ever time in my entire life away from my parents and family for more than a day in an unknown land. I got to spend 10 weeks without the supervision of a strict African parent and that showed me who I am and helped me learn a lot about myself.  This summer, I was able to recognize my innate ability to easily cope with new challenges and adapt to environments new to me.
This summer I worked with almost all the divisions in Yosemite and I saw how every single person works for the advancement of the Agency regardless of their job title. My summer however highlights wilderness restoration, interpretation and law enforcement divisions.
Working with the wilderness restoration crew, I got to learn maps, compasses and GPS, about archeology and the history of where I was. I camped in Mcgurk meadow, Mono meadow and Evelyn Lake and slowly but steadily I got comfortable with sleeping in the wilderness and outdoors in general. I knew what to take and not take, and I started to welcome the quiet environment where I found myself.
With the interpretation division, I was privileged enough to shadow the famous and brilliant Shelton Johnson in his Junior Ranger programs and also in the visitor’s center. Working with him made me appreciate and relate with the environment I found myself even more. He always had a way of making people relate to the magnificent environment, Yosemite.

With the Law enforcement I shadowed skillful and proficient Law Enforcement Rangers. I went on ride alongs, shadowed investigations and interrogations, sat through court cases and did traffic, Preventive Search And Rescue (PSAR), and Search And Rescue (SAR).

Ultimately, I want to use this medium to express my appreciation to the ProRanger Program for selecting me into this program, and also thank everyone who played a role and contributed in ensuring the success of my internship. I thank you all for your time, knowledge and support (participation) this summer. It was indeed a privilege to have spent my summer in your home, thank you for welcoming me with warm open hands.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why Does This Nuclear Reactor Have a National Park Sign?

The nation’s newest national historical park was formally created last week in Washington, D.C.  U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz signed a memorandum of agreement on November 10th, establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  The agreement outlines how the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) “will work together to preserve, protect, and provide access to the historic resources associated with the Manhattan Project at locations in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos, New Mexico; and the Hanford Site in Washington state.”  More on this:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mysterious Building

You may be wondering what this building is. I'm going to rule out some possibilities. It isn't the Sheraton Suites. It isn't Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. It isn't the luxurious Marriot either. This is the building that President Abraham Lincoln stayed in the night before he delivered the Gettysburg Address. Cool right? During his speech, he reminded our country of the sacrifices that were made after the three day battle concluded. Many lives were lost during the Battle of Gettysburg. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go inside and take a nap on the bed he used during my break. However, stay tuned for that one.

Cyclorama At Gettysburg

During my internship at Gettysburg National Military Park, I learned that we had a variety of amenities and attractions to accommodate the 1.2 million visitors that tour the park each year. The first one that I would like to note as a very convenient attraction called FREE PARKING. I'm from Philadelphia and free parking where I'm from is the equivalent to a unicorn flying in the sky twice a day. It doesn't exist.

However, aside from free parking at Gettysburg we have this very cool attraction that depicts the third day during the Battle of Gettysburg. We call this feature the Cyclorama painting. This is a 360 degree canvas oil painting that surrounds the room it is placed in. It looks like the painting is 3D the way the illustrations pop out at you but, you can't touch it. I tried.

The room the Cyclorama is in features dimmed lights, narrative voices to depict what is in front of visitors, and sound/light effects (for the big bad cannons). During the late 1800s, the Cyclorama style of painting was very popular in the U.S. and Europe. However they lost popularity with the rising of motion pictures which we use today in modern society. None the less, it is still very cool to see these type of paintings.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Horsing Around

I was scrolling through photos of my summer internship at Manassas National Battlefield Park and came across several photos of the horses at the park that I had a chance to work with. At MANA, a Law Enforcement ranger runs the mounted patrol program. He works closely with the horses day in and day out. He trains, cares for, and maintains the horses and their stables. As well as training volunteers that go out on rides to get the horses some exercise. 
I personally have never worked with horses. I had never ridden one, fed one, or knew any sort a caring techniques for a horse. Well, that all changed this past summer. When I first arrived at the park a ranger met me at the law enforcement office, which happened to be attached to the horse stables. The ranger I was meeting was going to show me where I would be staying for the summer, but before we left the Law Enforcement office he gave me a quick tour, which led to the stables and began introducing me to each of the four horses MANA has. He handed me a snack to give the horse and I stared at him with a wide-eyed expression and he gave me my first lesson of how to feed a horse.
My Chief made it my duty to feed the horses each morning whenever I arrived at the Law Enforcement office. It was an interesting experience learning how to work around such a large animal of that size, and learning to control any signs of being nervous around them. I helped "muck stales"with my Chief, disposing the animal waste and placing down new straw for the horses. Taking care of these horses and keeping the program running takes a lot of work and dedication. Manassas is not just a place for lovers of history to visit and enjoy, but a place of recreation that many local residents go to run, walk, hike, and even go on rides with their horses. 
Frankie the Horse
Ginny the Horse

Can't forget Sadie the Cat, the mascot of Manassas!

To the new ProRanger Cohort, welcome and remember to take on every new experience you can get out of your summer internships and the classes at Temple. This program has a lot to offer, it is up to you what you make of it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Watching the Seasons Change

I was just thinking to myself as I took notice of the leaves changing their colors how beautiful Shenandoah National Park would be this time of the year. Whether you're taking a drive along the Skyline or going for a hike in the back country to spot rattlesnakes and waterfalls it's a beautiful sight. I was stationed at Manassas National Battlefield Park, but I was less than an hour away from the North entrance of Shenandoah through the small town of Front Royal. Midway through my summer experience my Chief thought it would be great if I could take the Wildland Fire course, S-130/190 at Shenandoah NP where it would be taught. Luckily with a couple phone calls and a few forms to fill out I would be staying just outside the park for the 4-day training to receive my Red card along with a seasonal maintenance worker at MANA.
We spent three days in a classroom going over basics and essential tools used on a fire, and the last day was spent in the field getting to use the equipment and understanding how to deploy your shelter in a matter of seconds. Not only did the training teach me about wild land firefighting, but in order to go on this training I had the opportunity to work closely with Manassas's administration staff. I was fortunate enough for them to support me going on the training and help teach me about how to send someone out on a training or even on a fire, as well how one would get paid or reimbursed during such an event.
Overall I had a great time at Shenandoah, getting the chance to meet other people working in the park and seeing Shenandoah in a different way rather than from a visitor perspective. A way in such that can help protect and prevent the spread of fire throughout the park if such an unfortunate incident ever took place.
Here we are all lined up, each ready to head out into the woods to do
some practical training with different tools.

Myself, in (borrowed) Personal Protective Equipment.
Seasonal Maintenance employee at MANA, Christian, carrying the leaf blower.
Digging a line.
Not only is the leaf blower used to help control and reduce fire in the field,
but also used to simulate the rough wind speeds of fire rolling over a deployed shelter. 
Saying goodbye to Shenandoah NP.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

From Casting Iron and Forging Progress to Preserving Stories and Enlightening Visitors: Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

Nestled in the heart of Berks County, PA, and surround by bucolic French Creek State Park, lies Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (HOFU), a place that will surprise, enlighten and offer a rare glimpse into Southeastern Pennsylvania’s iron-making past and its influence on America’s industrial revolution.  Six Temple University ProRanger students joined Landscape Architecture and Design Associate Professor Robert Kuper’s class of senior design studio students to explore this unique historical site and draw inspiration from the beauty of its natural resources and the culture of its former inhabitants.  

Division Chief Frances Delmar
Hopewell Furnace Site Manager and Interpretation Division Chief Frances Delmar and Park Ranger Norman Feil, II provided the interpretative narration and walk-through necessary to accurately envision Hopewell Furnace at the height of its operations and iron-making production from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries.  But, as Delmar was sure to point out, “Hopewell is everyone’s place”; that is, unlike other very well-known national historic sites, Hopewell Furnace is the story of everyday people and everyday life.  

And, Delmar is right – while Hopewell figures prominently as the most intact example of an iron-making settlement, the real story is with its inhabitants and their day-to-day lives converting plentiful, local raw materials into finished products ranging from “Hopewell stoves” to hollow-ware to mortars and cannons used at the final battle at Yorktown.  In later years, Hopewell’s furnace produced “pig iron” that was used throughout the U.S. and the world.  

In addition to being technologically ahead of its time, Hopewell Furnace was a leader in gender and social equality.  The practice of equal pay for equal work was the norm – women earned the same as men for their work – and the workplace (including housing) was racially integrated.  

Park Ranger Norman Feil
After the last iron furnace was extinguished in the late 1880’s, the site fell into disuse and disrepair until the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the national stimulus program under the leadership of President Teddy Roosevelt, put the young and unemployed to work on large scale conservation projects on federal and state lands, including Hopewell Furnace.  The CCC’s preservation efforts in the 1930’s saved Hopewell Furnace from ruins, but in a twist of irony, were a social step backward for Hopewell, as the CCC was limited to young men only, and racial minorities were required to work and live separately from whites.  

Today, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (just over an hour’s drive from Independence National Historical Park and less than 45 minutes from Valley Forge National Historical Park) is managed by the National Park Service and draws visitors looking to understand the cultural, natural and human resources behind the American industrial revolution, or to find respite and a quiet place to walk, run or recreate, or to simply take in the fall foliage in glorious shades of red, yellow and orange.  

Delmar also suggests families visit this time of year to gather and enjoy the kind of apples “you won’t find in a supermarket.”  For the bargain price of a dollar/pound (buckets provided), families can stock up on enough apples to last them through the fall.  Hopewell Furnace has something to offer to every visitor, but perhaps Neil put it best when he said the most valued finished product Hopewell “casts” today is enlightenment.