Thursday, June 30, 2011
|Battery Weed at Ft. Wadsworth|
|Fallon looking through applications|
|Filing cabinets that holds all of the criminal cases|
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
We were also on the ship to see the Massachusetts State Police use their explosives robot. They were testing to see how maneuverable the robot would be below deck as well as how responsive the cameras and communication system were. It was surprising at how fast the robot could move, and we also learned that it is for the most part water proof.
It was great to once again be able to work with another department with such important equipment. It shows how willing the National Park Service is when working with other divisions as well as other departments outside of the park system.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
This week started out with us finishing up our stint with Administration. They put together an exercise where Heather and I had to locate "lost" Government items. This was challenging because we had to use all of our past experiences learned from the previous week to solve the exercise. We finished the exercise off with a lunch/after action review , which helped us understand how we completed the task. (Thanks for a fun week guys)
(If you have time please check out some of the interesting history of Shenandoah National Park and see just how amazing the history and amount of work that went into creating this park. )
The rest of the week was almost completely devoted to the 75th rededicating ceremony. This was a big event for the park and it was interesting and a good experience for us to sit through the various supervisor meetings throughout the week which gave us a greater understanding of just how much planning went into the event. (on an interesting side note, the event was treated like incident and the supervisors used the same Incident Command Structure that would be used for say a large wildfire. This helped keep everything in order and was a good refresher for Heather and myself to see how an ICS works in real life.)
We had various tasks throughout the week. I personally did set up moving seats and tables, traffic control( for a detour that was set up around the event), and on Saturday I was part of the parking group. Although parking cars for the whole day wasn't the most exciting and we didn't get to see the proceeding of the event we got the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting visitors, and it felt good knowing that at the end of the day we accomplished our jobs and the event went on to great success.
looking forward to our next week and I am excited to see you all and hear about how your summers are going at leadership camp.
(Me helping to set up a tent)
The past week has literally revolved around the success of the 75th Anniversary of Shenandoah National Park. I spent the day Wednesday with Lora Peppers and Leslie (the chief ranger). We walked around making sure everything was in order, inspecting the bleachers for possible safety hazards, and completing any last minute tasks. I also spent a couple hours stapling NO PARKING and NO STOPPING signs to wooden stakes. The staple gun was a challenge at first but once I got the used to it, it was kind of fun. The day before the celebration I helped out the maintenance crew. Skip, the head of operations, assigned me to work with some of the YCC (youth conservation corps) kids. They are sort of like the modern equivalent of the CCC. The four of us set up more white tents than I could count! There seems to be a certification card for everything else in the Park Service so now I'm wondering where my "tent putter-upper" certification is... ;)
The re-dedication celebration happened on Saturday, June 25th at 10 a.m. I was assigned to the task of parking cars/directing traffic. I woke up that morning at 4 in order to make it up to the park by 6! I then worked all day standing in the middle of various fields telling people where to park. It may not have been the most glamorous job, but I never-the-less felt honored to have played even a small part on this very BIG day.
The week concluded yesterday with the ProRanger conference call. I've never participated in one before so it, also, was a new experience. It was really great to hear everyone's voices and equally as cool to hear about everyone else's most challenging moments and memorable experiences.
I am already looking forward to the many adventures that next week (week 7!) will hold. Next time I post it will be the night before we all travel to leadership camp!
See you all soon,
This week, we spent the week working with the Interpretation division of the park. Prior to working with Interpretation, Jim and I were both very nervous. Interpretation meant that we would have to interact with park visitors, giving directions, answering questions about the Civil War, and in general doing something that neither of us had ever experienced before. This was the division that we were both most fearful of. The Interpretation staff welcomed us bright and early Monday morning and within the first hour we were working the front desk with a few of the volunteers and an Interp Ranger. After helping our first visitor, we quickly realized that it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be! If we didn't know the answer to a question, visitors would understand as we would grab one of the Interp Rangers who has been there significantly longer or one of the volunteers who were both significantly more knowledgeable about the battle than either of us. Throughout the week, we got the opportunity to attend Ranger led caravan tours throughout the park. It was another way to see the park and gain knowledge of what occurred on the battlefield. Our first tour we did, due to road paving, we were asked to assist with parking the vehicles and aiding people across the street. While it seemed like a minor job, it is doing things such as that throughout the park that are extremely important to keeping visitors happy and able to see the entire park. The Ranger led tours demonstrated a way that history should be taught - engaging and as one of the Rangers put it "History should not be taught in atwo dimensional manner, history happened in three dimensions and that is how it should be presented"(Ranger Manny). The knowledge that was shared during those tours really stuck with Jim and I. We found that by the end of the week we were able to answer a multitude of questions and that we had more confidence working behind the Visitor Center's counter. Also during our time at Interp we were able to help set up an exhibit featuring Abraham Lincoln. It was nice to see the behind the scenes version of what must go on to set up an exhibit. This was a really good introduction for us to a museum-like feel. Throughout our time at Interp, we were constantly reminded how each division must interact. Although we are planning on going into Law Enforcement, the LE Officers must have knowledge of the park and battle because individuals see a uniform and will ask questions. Now, we have no problem walking into the Visitors Center and helping people or just popping behind the desk if it looks busy. While we both have so much more to learn about the battle, it was a great way to learn about the battlefield. Another opportunity that we had as we worked with Interp was to spend a day with the Education Division. We were both hoping to get a chance to dress up, but unfortunately there were no clothes that would fit us. Hopefully we will get another chance to do that, though. We both did get to participate in the educational programs. I got to work with a group of ROTC kids along with a volunteer giving the "flag program." It was a lot of fun to work with the kids, even though they did act like teenagers on a hot day at times. I didn't have much knowledge of the flag program, but the volunteer and I were able to work through it together and we learned quite a bit! Jim helped the education coordinator do the Cemetery Program for a group of teachers. Unfortunately, the bugs were extremely active and the teachers chose to cut the program short. We both, though, found the experience to be a lot of fun and would have loved to have more time with the education division. Although we started out our week with Interpretation with quite a few worries, by the end we found that there was nothing to worry about. We really enjoyed our time with them! We are looking forward to our next week at the park!
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Our 6th week at Prince William Forest Park was spent with Interpretation. Charles and I spent the first day learning how to open the visitor center. We began by counting the registers, turning on the lights, unlocking the doors, and raising the flag. I really enjoyed raising the flag, because it represents much more than the act of raising the flag. It represents the country.
We watched a few videos on the OSS or Office of Strategic Services and the Civilian Conservation Corps. We got roughly halfway through these videos and then departed for a ranger program on beavers with Sheila. I learned so much about beavers it was kind of astonishing. They can breathe under water for 15 minutes, they had flaps over their ears, nose, and throat that prevent water from entering, they are nocturnal, they have built in goggles (an extra set of transparent lids), and they have an outer layer of fur that is water proof. Who knew? I sure didn’t. The park service is so thorough with their presentations, I walked away knowing a significant amount of information about beavers.
After lunch we checked in inventory for the bookstore. This was an interesting task that reminded me of my days working in retail. We made sure all items were accounted for and priced and then set them up in the bookstore. After the inventory we learned how to check in campers and park visitors. We scheduled a few campers and rang them through the register. At the end of the day we did some reading about the park.
Day 2 with interpretation was a bit faster paced. We arrived and assisted with opening. We took a photo during the raising of the flag (shown above) and returned back indoors. We completed our Eppley course, Interpretive Talk, and took the exam to receive a certificate. After the Eppley course we attended an orienteering course with a group of cub scouts. Charles and I both enjoyed this activity. We used maps and compasses to walk a pre-set course which had markers at each destination. This skill will be useful in the future. We returned to the visitor center to continue working on the interpretive talk assignment. Charles and I are both doing our talk regarding cemeteries in the park. Are talks will be separate, but they will also flow together. There are 45 family-owned cemeteries within Prince William Forest Park. Charles will focus on the Canon/Reed cemetery and I will focus on the Muschette cemetery. There are some very interesting facts regarding these cemeteries that we are eager to tell people about.
We went back out with the cub scouts after lunch for another program called Home Sweet Home and Tree ID. Stephanie led the program and we followed. Any time a cub was misbehaving, they were sent to the back of the line to stand with Charles and I. We both found this quite amusing and humorous. At the end of the hike we departed from the cub scouts once more. Daniel, who I personally found to be the sweetest scout of all, came up to me for a hug. He continued on to Charles and Stephanie as well. This kind gesture made the entire program so much more than it was. You are appreciated as a park ranger, and that is important to us.
Day 3 began at the visitor center performing normal operations. Law Enforcement Ranger John Bueg and I raised the flag together. John gave me a few do’s and don’ts of raising the flag, which I didn’t know and appreciate learning. John also showed me a few more tips for using a compass, which will benefit me in the future. The day continued with Bridging the Watershed. We went to Pyrite Mine Road and traveled to the former pyrite mine to take water and soil samples. The new YCC members (Youth Conservation Corp) came along for this adventure. Our supervisor’s (Dave Ballam) son, Parker, is a YCC member. Along the way to the mine, Stephanie and Todd from interpretation gave us guided talks regarding the families and town that lived in the area as well as the significance of the mine to the surrounding communities.
We all returned from the hike having a new set of skills and a great experience. The park service is great with getting people new skills and learning experiences. Youth are very important to the future of the National Park Service. The remainder of the day was spent researching and putting together our interpretive talk.
On Friday, we spent most of our day at the Visitor Center. Friday and Saturday are the busiest days of the week at the VC, and we definitely got a taste of what is like to work there at those times. There was a constant flow of people looking for everything from campsites at the Oak Ridge Campground to buying a book from the VC store. In the evening, we were able to attend a night hike. Todd led this program, called the “Owl Prowl.” We drove up to the Oak Ridge Campground, where not too long after we arrived, a large crowd of families and boy scouts had formed for this hike. We first walked to a field where Todd played recordings of calls of several different owls, such as Skreech owls, Barred owls, and Horned owls, and he described each ones appearance, what they like to hunt, etc. After we all stood in the clearing for a few minutes listening for owls, we all ventured down one of the nearby trails. It was a decent hike to the next listening point, and Todd again played the recordings several times. Almost everyone was able to keep silent again, but only Amber and a few others were able to hear an owl respond at one point. It was very difficult to pick up and nearly everyone missed it. We then returned to the Oak Ridge Campground, and drove to the VC to close up, and then went home for the night. The “Owl Prowl” was nonetheless very fun despite not being able to hear nearly any owls, and we were glad that we could attend this event.
Saturday was an even busier day than Friday at the VC. In the morning, we took part in an arts and crafts activity run by Ranger Jenn Kays at the Pine Grove Pavilion. Butterflies were the theme of the activity, and we each made one of our own. We had two kids join us in crafting butterflies, and they really loved dumping lots of glitter all over the butterfly they drew on their paper more than anything else, and afterward, the table was covered in glitter. Even so, it was an enjoyable morning, and I never knew I could have such a good time creating a butterfly. After lunch, Amber spent time helping Jenn at the VC, while LE Ranger John Bueg asked for my help splitting wood. After this, I returned to the VC to continue to help out there and observe operations. The day went by too fast, unfortunately as did our week with the Interpretation Division. We loved the time we were able to spend with them, and it was great to do some research on the history of the park, as there certainly is plenty to dive into.
Friday, June 24, 2011
This week Mark and I worked with the many branches of the maintenance division to help preserve and protection the assets at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. On Monday, we spent the morning with the Chief of Maintenance and attended a squad meeting with all of the branch supervisors. The Chief gave us a tour of the many projects being completed in the park and spoke about the challenges of managing the resource. After the squad meeting, Mark and I were given a brief orientation of all of the branches of maintenance. We also shadowed employees while they completed work orders and entered reports into a data tracking system.
Wednesday marked our first day with the trails and grounds crew. To begin the day, I went out with the mowing crew to mow and weed eat along Shoreline Drive. Mark went along with the aborists to assist in pruning trees at the Ranger Station. Later in the day, we both returned to the Ranger Station to help chip the branches and limbs that were removed in the morning. Wednesday also included the monthly safety meeting at the Park. Mark and I attended the meeting and received an understanding of safety concerns in the Park and how they are being addressed.
The following day we reported to buildings and utilities. Mark and I joined a member of the paint crew for a hike up Maryland Heights to remove graffiti from trial markers and rocks along the path. This task was a follow up to the documenting of the vandalism that we completed the previous week. After returning from Maryland Heights, Mark and I conducted inventory of the buildings and utilities items. This included entering most of the Park buildings to account for air conditioners, refrigerators, and microwaves. This experience will help us in the future as inventory is a mandatory task for every division at every National Park.
Our Final day with maintenance was split between time with the landscape architect and the architect. In the morning, the landscape architect lead us on a tour of his projects, with included a trip to Antietam National Battlefield. We also visited the Short Hill area of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and discussed the future of the Short Hill site. In the afternoon we worked with the architect to review project proposals and the PMIS system.The PMIS program allows parks to request funds for projects and prioritize their requests. Every project must go through this system and it is an important aspect of the architects work. We read through our General Management Plan as well to relate the projects to the goals outlined in the plan.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
During the latter half of the day, Ben and I were given a very important task. About a week prior, a local had been reported missing by family. The family instructed police that the person enjoyed spending time at Valley Forge and it was suggested that the individual may be camping out at the top of Mount Joy, away from people. Our task was to search for evidence of a person on the mountain by looking for clues such as bike tracks, clothing or shoes and food. We never found any evidence and a few days later it was unfortunately reported that the subject had been found dead in a different small park closer to home.
Wednesday was an exciting day with the Natural Resources crew. In the morning, Ben and I embarked on our first Weed Warriors session. We traveled to a specified location in the park and began removing a problem plant called Mile-A-Minute. It gets its name because it can grow up to six inches in one day. The invasive plants were simple to remove and there were tons that needed to be. The work was not too laborious and the pay off was great. It was satisfying to see the difference we made in removing so many plants in only a few hours.
Friday, Maintenance had us focus our attention at Muhlenberg Brigade, stop two on the Valley Forge encampment tour. This area has a high amount of visitors daily and it is important to keep it pleasant and authentic. We spread new gravel in front of the wood burning oven which is a focal point for Interpretative discussion. We then moved on to the fence that surrounds the site and worked for the rest of the day reorganizing and securing the posts with wire to prevent them from slipping. It is important to keep these fences in repair not only to benefit the current visitors, but also those who may look back at photo's taken from their trip to Valley Forge in future years.
Saturday was another Natural Resources day and Ben and I, along with all of the seasonal crew, headed down to Valley Creek for more crayfish hunting. As described in a previous blog post, removal of invasive crayfish is critical to the health of our exceptional value stream. The Crayfish Corps runs as often as needed either by just NPS staff, or staff and a group of volunteers. Ben caught five small trout and many of the volunteers were very excited to see the fish!