Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Anyone Need a Drink? Water or Pepsi?

Time is flying by here at Hot Springs National Park, as my third week here has come to an end. Let me tell you it was a busy week! I started out my work week by attending two different orientation sessions. The sessions were being put on for the teenagers participating in the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) at the park this summer. The first session was a History talk with the Parks Curator Tom Hill. During this session, I gained a great amount of knowledge on the history of the park that I never read about. The knowledge gained from Tom is knowledge you will not get by reading any old history book about Hot Springs National Park, and am glad I choose to partake in the session. After the presentation was done, we were lucky enough to get a tour through the rooms where all of the artifacts are stored for the park. Some of these artifacts the public will never get to see, but we were getting the special privilege of looking at them, and the artifacts did not disappoint.  Other artifacts in the collection will occasionally go out on display throughout the year depending on what special events or collections are going on at various times. After the tour was over, I made my way back to the Ranger office to have a quick lunch before venturing back down for the second session of the day.

Water Flow Chart for HOSP
How does the water that comes out of the ground at Hot Springs National Park get hot you ask? Well, we learned a great deal about how this process occurs during our second session about all of the resources of the park. Chief of Resource Management Shelley Todd gave us a great program on everything from how the water gets hot, to the uniqueness of the mountains in the park, to all of the different kinds of plants and animals that you can find in the park. So in order to not bore anyone with details, I will present the three fun facts I found most interesting during the session! Fun fact about the water at HOSP? It takes 4400 years for the entire process to take place, from the rainfall, it gets heated, then pushed up out of the ground; Awesome right! Fun fact about our mountains! They run East to West, unlike typical mountain ranges that run North to South in other parts of the country, which gives our mountains their unique qualities and size. Can you see all of the Hot Springs on the mountain? No, as I found out all but one of the springs are capped. They are capped to ensure the water quality remains good enough for the consumption of the public. Hot Springs National Park is unique because it’s the only park that’s enabling legislation instructs it to give away its primary resource, which is our water. Understanding the park's enabling legislation helps visitors and new park employees such as myself to better understand why the springs are capped!

All Clean!
The next day started out in the office getting some office work done. After doing my paperwork, I headed over to the maintenance yard to check the wildland engine to make sure everything was running smoothly. After the checks were completed, I decided to wash the truck and give it some TLC. After I got done washing it, I parked it in the garage and headed back to the office to get ready for the ride along later that day. Activity started to pick up later that day as I and Ranger Zach Summerlin were getting ready to go out on patrol, as this was my first time riding with Ranger Summerlin. Ranger Summerlin other than being a normal park ranger is also the parks drug recognition expert. We started out the night by going to get fuel for the patrol car and making sure we had everything ready for the night. We later made our way to West Mountain to patrol and wound up running radar for a while. It was slow for a while and as we were about to leave was when we got a car speeding. We had to turn around and go after them, which is where I observed tactical driving skills on how to complete a sharp turn in a small area in an efficient manner. Ranger Summerlin and I would catch up to them at the bottom of West Mountain, which is where we conducted the stop. The car was occupied by three persons or as we say x3. This was a great learning experience for me as to see the process beginning with a car stop all the way through to the booking of a subject that had a warrant and had to be taken/processed through the jail.
lead to an arrest for a young adult that had a local warrant out for failure to appear. We then transported him to the local counties jail facility. This is where I got to learn the booking process of bringing someone in, and all of the paperwork that needs to be filled out (ticket, ADR, warrant sheet) while the person is processed.

Little friend I saw walking to my car!
The next day was an all-day affair at the office. My sole job on that day was to comb through footage that we got from the mountain tower on the day of the bomb scare. I was to look through all of the footage and try to locate the subject(s) that may have placed it there. The subject may have carried it, hid it in a backpack, in short pockets, or a variety of different ways. Needless to say after combing through footage for the day, I was unable to come up with anything conclusive as to who may have left the suspicious looking device at the top of our mountain tower lookout.

Jack-Knifed Tractor Trailer
The final day of my work week was the busiest, and therefore the longest. Working a total of 13 hours my last day of the week was well worth all of the experiences I had. In the morning I rode with Ranger Flint Stock, making two car stops during that time as well as helping visitors that were lost. Around the evening time, I rode along with Ranger VanNest and patrolled the park until it was about time for him to go off duty and have me switch into another patrol car with Ranger Ballard. Right before this happened though we got a call for a jack-knifed tractor trailer on Blacksnake Road, in which tractor trailers aren’t allowed on because of the steep grades and events like this occurring.  We got to the scene where Ranger Ballard and Jeff were already on scene. Ranger VanNest left me with them as he was off duty now and headed home. Ranger Ballard and I had the responsibility to stop traffic at the end of the road as the tow truck company pulled the truck out and the driver back the rig down the road. Once the driver was off park property, we all cleared the scene and went out to patrol the park.

To close off the night Ranger Ballard and I had the duty to close both West Mountain and Hot Spring Mountain, as both roadways looking to the parks few overlooks closes at 2200 hours (10 p.m). Our first stop was West Mountain, where we encountered a total of three cars and occupants still at the overlooks. We ran their names and vehicles through our dispatch (EMROCC), as they all came back clear. With them all coming back clear we issued them all a verbal warning for violating park hours and sent them on their way down the mountain and out of the park for the night. Up next was Hot Springs Mountain. When we approached the first overlook on the mountain, we encountered 3 cars and 2 motorcycles, with approximately 15 people hanging out looking at the view of the city.  Again, we got all of their IDs and license plate numbers and ran them all through our dispatch at EMROCC. Everyone came back clear, but we still had a problem on our hands that both I and Ranger Ballard recognized from the beginning. As we approached the large group, we could smell the stench of marijuana coming from a group of 4 young adults. So as I said we had taken the names and license plates and ran them through EMROCC and came back clear, so we sent everyone away beside the 4 individuals. At this time Ranger Ballard and Ranger Summerlin who responded as backup questioned the young adults as to whose was high, is there any weed or stuff we need to know about in the car, etc. During questioning one of the young adults complied with us and said that he had the marijuana in his backpack along with a handgun that he had. After the questioning was done, I got to watch both rangers perform a car search, as the search did indeed come up with the marijuana and handgun, that came back to be clear after we ran the serial number. Once the search was completed, we confiscated the drugs, and issued him a citation, then sent the group on their way. Ranger Ballard and I then proceeded to close the mountain then go back to the office, where I then learned how to enter the drugs into IMARS and conceal it and put it in our evidence storage at our ranger station. (Sorry no pictures of this incident...phone died)

This week I have learned and experienced a great deal of new contacts and calls throughout the park and learned many different techniques on how to get it all done. I am looking forward to the weeks to come, as the July 4th weekend is fast approaching! Hope everyone is having a great summer, and as always stay tuned!

The Start of Patrols

The last week was very busy and full of great learning experiences from the training I did on Monday to a lesson in patience on Friday. I was also all over the park and got to see many new places I have never been while also meeting more Rangers who have the task of patrolling this beautiful park. The week started out in El Potral which is where a majority of the workers who work in the valley, doing the basic aviation training which had practical information that I know I will get to use in the future. Halfway through the training I found out that the road back to the valley that I took out to the training had suffered a rock slide which closed it down for the rest of the week. That is not something I am used to, coming from Michigan, so having the commute back home go from 30 minutes to 3 hours was quiet the surprise.
Glacier Point

Tuesday I spent the day with the Rangers in Wawona and got to be part of their Search and Rescue refresher for the seasonal ranger which took up most of the morning. After that the Ranger taught me the how to conduct a traffic stop and explained the legal reasons behind why he is allowed to stop vehicles for different offenses. Soon after starting to run traffic though we got pulled up to glacier point so that we could do some traffic control and allow for the parking up there to clear out. We did this for an hour and finished the day with a trip up to glacier point to see the beautiful views for that area.
Spray off of O'Shaughnessy Dam

Wednesday I spent the day with the Rangers out at Hetch Hetchy, this is the district with the least amount of activity, but they have the most important thing to protect in the park. In this district they have the O’Shaughnessy dam which is what holds back the water which is used by most of San Francisco. Here I was able to see how they access the dam to clear it after every alarm code. We also did some walking patrol out on the trails system there to make sure the backpackers had the proper permits.

Helitack Near Crane Flat
Thursday I was up in Crane Flat which right now is all road patrol due to the massive amounts of snow that accumulated in the Tuolumne meadows. This day was full of traffic stops, with the ranger explaining more about what gives them the right to pull over vehicles and how he treats traffic stops. On this day I also got to learn about how the state of California deals with suspended licenses and what to do when you have a subject who has a suspended license and had been driving. Thursday ended with a trip to the jail that is located in the valley, getting to see how to book the subjects and how to write up the report for the judicial side of our government.

Friday I was in the valley on patrol with the rangers who have a very busy district and deal with all sorts of calls. This day was surprisingly slow, until the end of the day when we were pulled to camp four to deal with a dog in a tent. All I can say about this contact is that I applaud the ranger on the high levels of the patience and professionalism he showed during the time we were in contact with the individuals.

Starting Movement of  Traverse
My weekend was spent on the boulders, learning new moves and pushing myself to complete the climbs. Sadly, this meant there were many falls and my hands and legs are now all scratched up and sore from the bouldering. On a good note in bouldering you can see yourself getting better each time you start the problem.  

"The beginning and end of the beginning?"

            It’s almost like the weeks are going faster than I can blog about them! Another workweek completed at Colonial National Historical Park means another post about how much I am learning about the National Park Service as well as my career path in criminal justice! This particular week was spent with the wonderful folks at the Historic Jamestown Visitor Center. Because I had an understanding of how the business works at the visitor center in Yorktown, I was more than ready to apply what I had learned at Jamestown.
            I overheard one of the interpretation rangers describe Colonial as “the beginning and end of the beginning” and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense: this park is so vital to the history of our country for two major reasons. The first permanent English settlement in North America was the beginning of our country’s development while the siege of Yorktown in the American Revolution virtually ended the war, granting us our independence. I learned so much about that particular span of history for our country and I am so glad that I did. Looking back, I am also so glad that I could experience the interpretation phase of the internship early on, so that I can learn all about what it is that I, as an LE ranger, will be protecting. Not only do the rangers here protect visitors and keep the park safe, but they make it a priority to respect and allow the interpretation division to do their jobs as well.

            My week at the Jamestown VC was full of warm greetings, conversations between visitors from across the country, and the ability to learn so much about the foundation of the United States. This site boasts one of the most influential pieces of land in American history, and visitors come from around the globe to see the original site of the fort that settlers built in 1607. The grounds are always populated with tours of the landscape and interpreters surrounded by visitors during any point of the day. I was also fortunate enough to meet the lead archaeologists at the dig sites on scene. Archaeologists have been (lawfully) conducting projects that uncover history that has been covered for centuries. Because of this, what we know about the settlement and beyond is constantly changing. The site is indeed full of living history.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

My introduction to Mammoth Cave has been high speed since the first day on. The Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division currently has ten employees with various responsibilities. It’s been my pleasure to meet and get to know each of them.
On day three I participated in a sobriety checkpoint. Before setting up the checkpoint, I reviewed paperwork explaining the operation and staff involved as well as the operation GAR rating. The Rangers were sure to educate me on case law pertaining to sobriety checkpoints. The case we spoke about was Michigan Dep’t of State Police v. Sitz. In that case the supreme court found, “That a state’s interest in preventing accidents caused by drunk drivers outweighed the minimal intrusion upon drivers who are temporarily stopped” (FLETC 2015 Legal Division Student Handbook). During the checkpoint the officers approached the stop as an inspection and checked for valid driver’s license and registration. If the contact lead to reasonable suspicion, the officers would pull the vehicle over and run it. If that suspicion was alcohol related then the officers conducted standard field sobriety tests. There were no DUI charges throughout the night, but we cited drivers for open containers and an unrestricted child charge. The checkpoint took place on a Wednesday night and the day was resultant of less traffic in the area.

There will be more sobriety checkpoints throughout the summer. I have plenty to look forward to with my law enforcement experience and legal education with the staff here.

Be Careful PBS is Watching...

With week three coming to a close it feels great to take a break after a very high octane week with Boston African American Heritage Site (BOAF) interpretive rangers the first half and Law Enforcement to close out the week. Starting the week with Interpretive Ranger Sentidra I was brought on a few tours of the BOAF trail. The BOAF trail travels through Boston's historic Beacon Hill neighborhood. This area was home to a large free black community that had houses assisting in operations of the underground railroad. I was also able to sit in on a couple talks in the African Meetinghouse by a fellow intern Erica where I learned I was sitting in the same room Frederick Douglass had spoken in years before.

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Lewis and Harriet Hayden House part of the underground railroad

Fellow intern Erica giving a historical talk.

Although walking the trail and observing the ranger talks was awesome, it got even better when history came to life and the 54th Massachusetts regiment reenactors came to the Robert Gould Shaw memorial. The 54th Regiment was the first African American regiment in the Union Army and even boasted two sons of Frederick Douglass within its ranks. The 54th regiment is most famous for their charge on Fort Wagner depicted in the movie glory, but has even been recreated for service in the modern national guard. The memorial they were at depicts Robert Gould Shaw the colonel with his men marching beside him. Also this is not an everyday occurrence I was lucky to be their on the day PBS was filming for a documentary about 10 monuments that changed America, slated to come out in 2018 (I don't think I was able to get into the films background).

Depicted above the 54th Regiment reenactors with current national guard members (the ones with ties on in the center)

54th Massachusetts reenactors in formation

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made his way to Boston this past week visiting the Harbor Islands and meeting with employees at the navy yard. I was able to shake hands with Zinke before he gave a speech on the state of the NPS followed by a question and answer session with park employees. It was great to see the head of our entire department conversing on the front lines with park employees.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Don't You Mean "Weed Whacking?"

Well folks, I still haven't gotten to those last ten miles of the canal, but don't worry, I will keep you posted...

I spent this past week with the Facility Management department, and they put me to work! Well 

Conococheague Aqueduct

One day I was taken around to a few of the larger projects that had been completed in the last few years, including a series of bridges that had been installed along the river bank to replace the flood damaged towpath.  I was also taken to the sites of future projects in the works, like the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport at the Cushwa Basin, which when completed will be the only functional aqueduct in the United States.

Each morning I reported to the Williamsport maintenance facility where I would be given my assignment for the day.  For a couple of days my task was to weed whack, or as they say over in these parts, "weed eat."  I had never weed eated before, I guess my dad didn't quite trust me with those power tools.  I actually found it pretty enjoyable.  It was satisfying work with clearly gaugeable progress, almost meditative.

That is until the next couple of days when my forearms were very sore, and I discovered that contrary to my previously held belief, I am in fact allergic to poison ivy.  But hey, look how spiffy I helped get these locks and the towpath looking. Now these are places you want to do your recreating in, right?

 I am still not quite sure why they call it "weed eating" here in Maryland/West Virginia. Weed whacking seems to make a lot more sense to me, since the spinning plastic strings literally whack the weeds.  I guess if you don't make sure to keep your mouth closed you will end up eating a few scraps of weeds.  But I could certainly think of a better name or two for the activity. I think maybe when I retire from the Park Service I will open a spa for workaholic landscapers who wouldn't want to go to a traditional spa.

One day I took care of a few different odd jobs around the maintenance yard that had been put off in order to take care of more important work. The largest of these tasks was breaking down all of this scaffolding that had been used for a temporary marina and loading it onto a truck to be hauled away.  I also transported some old wood and rubber garbage across the yard and put it in the dumpster, and I loaded some scrap metal into the truck to be hauled away as well.  They certainly seemed to be happy to have an extra pair of hands around.  The maintenance staff, like the rest of the park and the Park Service, has taken some personnel hits in recent years, so they have to focus on essential maintenance to keep the park safe and enjoyable for visitors.

My wet hat hanging from the boat to dry
Luckily for me, this week was not all work and no play.  And Brennan over in the Virgin Islands isn't the only one who gets to have some fun in the sun out on the water.  Ostensibly for the purpose of checking out those bridges I mentioned above, I got to go for a ride on one of the park's boats in a section of the Potomac called Big Slackwater.  Located behind Dam 4, they used to remove the boats from the canal and float them on this artificially placid portion of the river itself while the mules continued to pull them from the towpath.  I only lost my hat once, but it was quickly recovered.  I even got to drive!

Even though I was a little underpaid for my efforts, it felt good to actually be able to contribute to the park rather than just watching and trying to absorb as much as I can while others do their jobs.

I even got to spend the weekend doing some trail magic for the Appalachian Trail hikers as they start to cross the Mason-Dixon and approach the halfway point.  Safe to say it was another good week.