Thursday, June 30, 2011


We have reached our halfway point for the Seasonal LE training program, another month and a half left until we graduate. Many of the activities that we are engaged in have been comprehensive and challenging, requiring you to think outside the box. Our laboratory scenarios follow classroom lectures and force us to recall previously learned skills along with newly acquired ones. Our instructors are always encouraging and are just as excited to be a part of a new program at Temple. Although we are at our halfway point, I reckon that time will fly by and our graduation will be here in a blink of an eye.

Our week with Administration

Battery Weed at Ft. Wadsworth
Last week we were able to work with Administration in Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. Since Gateway has three separate locations, Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay and Staten Island, they need to have one central location where the entire important decision making happens. Monday we went up there with our supervisor and we were introduced to every all the Human Resource workers and some of the people who work with the budget. We spoke with them for awhile just to see how everything gets handled, as far as, the application process and how to work together with HR to work out small issues that the other parks within Gateway may be dealing with.
Tuesday, we were able to drive ourselves there. Once we got there, they did not have too much stuff for us to do, so we took that time to walk around the Fort. It is a different area than we are used to seeing and it is a part of Gateway so we felt that we should take this opportunity and walk around. We were given a small tour of the Coast Guard base and housing area by two girls from the visitor center. We also assisted them with putting up flyers for their Jr. Ranger program that they are having in July. After that we tried to find our way to the Floyd Bennett Field, but unfortunately, we were not able to find the correct entrance into the field. Later that day, we helped set up for our summer annual Beach Concert at the Hook. Every Wednesdays, we have concerts on the beach; different bands come out, we have a stage and dance floor set up for everyone to come out and enjoy themselves.
Wednesday we were supposed to work the concert; however, due to the rain the concert was cancelled. So we went down to the lot and helped take down all the cones that we had set up the night before, so that the parking lot was no longer blocked off. We also took that time to get ourselves prepared for Leadership Camp next week.
Thursday, we were asked to return back to Staten Island to see the step by step process of dealing with applications that are sent into the office. Unfortunately for us, they did not have all that they wanted to show so we worked on some other things for them. In a way we actually got a hands-on view of the process. We were asked to go through the applications and make sure all the paperwork was signed. If an applicant did not have all the signatures we had to move them to a separate pile and if they were all filled out correctly we moved them to another pile.
Fallon looking through applications
I know that we were able to help them out by doing this, because they were able to get more work done that they needed to do with our help. In return we got to see what it felt like to work in Human Resources. On Friday, we stayed at Sandy Hook and worked with Grace; she works out of Staten Island but comes to Sandy Hook twice a week to do some work here. We helped her find case files that needed to be pulled and ready to go to court. We also filed new case incidents so that they would be ready if anyone needed to locate them. She taught us how to input the information onto the computer so that when we went into the cabinets we would be able to find them easily.
Filing cabinets that holds all of the criminal cases

Working with administration was very eye opening for me because there's more to administration than what many believe there is. As we mentioned before, maintenance is what keeps the park up and running and administration is what keeps the people up and running within the park. Without them, we would not be able to have all the people here to keep the environment of Sandy Hook safe and comfortable for our visitors and coworkers. Administration is a major part in how to deal with certain issues when things are trying to get done. We learned that when there is a situation where something may conflict with one policy but it falls under another policy and it needs be done, HR is there to help make the best decision on how to handle it with the best interest of the park. Most people are afraid to speak to administration because they feel that they be bothering them, however, the people at administration are here to help, answer questions and solve problems. So don't be afraid. =)

With Love,
Fallon and Ryan

P.S. Due to technical difficulities I had to post the blog this morning instead of last night.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BOST- Week 6

At the beginning of this week, Jeff and I attended the end of the Interpretation Seasonal Orientation. We continued a few walking tours of the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House. We were given the opportunity to climb to the second level within the tower of the Old North Church and saw a video of the bells being rung. We were also going to take a stroll down to the crypt but unfortunately ran out of time. On the last day of the training, the new seasonals got the chance to give their five minute talk to the group along with three judges in their version of American Idol, "Interpreter Idol". It was great to see everyone give their talks and put the skills to use that we have learned all week. We also spent part of the afternoon walking around the Yard answering any questions visitors may have had. At the end of the day everyone then got a chance to relax and interact with other Interpretation Rangers at a BBQ. It was a very informative week that aloud me to connect many dots between Law Enforcement and Interpretation.

This past week, Jeff and I got the opportunity to attend a meeting with our Chief Ranger Mark Dowdle and the Public Affairs coordinator Sean Hennessey along with some members of Boston Police Department. The meeting discussed the issue of school and tour buses parking along one of the streets that runs parallel to the park. It was great to see the cooperation among the NPS members and the local police, just one example of the everyday interactions that can happen in an urban park.

We then spent the afternoon with Sean Hennessey. He described to us the everyday duties that he has within the Public Affairs office. He notified us that as a government agency, the National Parks cannot advertise themselves but that they rely on media and news articles. Hennessey will often send small write ups about the park to local newspapers and a few online websites. He also is the main coordinator of information when the park has a VIP visit, for instance when Sarah Palin visited. This was another behind the scenes look at how much goes in to this park that most people could take for grantid.

Today, Jeff and I got to experience part of the USS Constitution that many people are unable to. We went below deck into the hull to see part of the original wood frame that the ship still consists of. The USS Constitution is only about 10% original, while the remaining pieces have been replaced. It was a very tight space and clearly did not provide many reasons for sailors or guests to frequent this space. The wood that was used for the ship is Live Oak and can only be found in the southern parts of the United States and Cuba. It is very strong and dense and is part of the reason why the ship is nicknamed "Old Iron Sides".

Here is a better view of the inside design of the hull of the USS Constitution.

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.

We continue to learn new and exciting things everyday! We look forward to seeing everyone at Leadership Camp next week, hope everyone drives safely!

ProRangers Erin Langeheine and Jeff Parente

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shenandoah National Park-- John Eichelberger

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.
John Eichelberger

SNP --> Week 6

(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,

Antietam National Battlefield - Week 5

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

SLETP Midway Point

I have endured six weeks thus far, two of which have been six-day weeks with six more weeks to come before graduation. Time is flying by this summer. I find myself getting into good routines in terms of eating, working out and sleeping which is helping me to excel. My academics are in good order and I am training to get a fitness award by the time graduation rolls around. I am looking forward to getting to the firearms training in the coming weeks.

Until next time.

GWMP Blog Post #4

This past week was focused on interpretation. Tia and myself spent Monday through Wednesday at the Arlington House, which has the the most amazing view of Washington. We spent most of our brief time at the Arlington House shadowing the different interpretation Rangers. This enabled me to observe and really soak in the different techniques of interpretation. Tia and I shadowed about eight different Rangers, each having different ways of telling about the history of General Lee and the Custis'. Being able to hear each Ranger's version of the Lee and Custis history was thoroughly enjoyable and truly gave me insight on the many ways a Ranger can interact with and pass along their knowledge to visitors. Tia and I were lucky enough to be able to tour the magnificant Arlington Cemetary during our time at the Arlington House. We visisted the Kennedy grave site and were also able to view the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soliders. Seeing just how professional and put together the guards were was nothing short of motivating. I learned a great deal from the Park Rangers stationed at the Arlington House.

On Thursday and Friday Tia and myself worked at the Clara Barton House and Glen Echo. These two days were dedicated to helping Zach, a Park Ranger stationed at Glen Echo, put together a museum exhibit. The exhibit is all about civil rights and the integration of Glen Echo Park. Our job involved a lot of measuring, cutting, and mounting. It proved to be fairly difficult, but I love projects such as these and have never been involved with putting together an actual museum exhibit. Each of us were quite happy with the end result. Tia and I will be transfering to the C&O Canal tomorrow to begin working as Law Enforcement Park Rangers. I am sad to be leaving the Parkway and all of the wonderful employees of the Parkway, but am excited to start with the Law Enforcement aspect of the ProRanger program. I am also excited to work with new people and experience a new National Park. I will be writing about my first week at the C&O Canal in about a week so stay tuned!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week 6 Prince William Forest Park: Charles Papacostas/Amber Hagan

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.

Bruises and Pepper Spray - SLETP

For the past few weeks, I’ve been very busy attending the Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program (SLETP) at Temple University along with the other cadets from Cohort 1. Although I’m not allowed to go into details about what we’ve been learning in specific – if I had to sum it up in a word, I’d say it’s been rigorous. Both the academic and the physical fitness components of our training have been very demanding – but I’m glad we’re being trained as hard as we are, because it helps us be that much more prepared when we begin working. I, for example, will be graduating the law enforcement academy and Temple University near the end of August, so it’s been especially important that I absorb as much as I can while I have easy access to the instructors and am in an environment where guidance is right over my shoulder.

Just in the past three weeks I’ve come home covered in bruises from defensive tactics (which have caused strangers to stare at me oddly when I’m out in public), ruined one of my PT uniform shirts with mud and grass stains due to training, taken two very difficult exams, been shot with an Airsoft SIG SAUER pistol in the neck (I was wearing ballistic body armor, eye protection, pants and long sleeves at the time, but the tiniest bit of bare skin is like a honing-magnet for Airsoft pellets) and have been OC (pepper) sprayed directly in the face. I’m usually a night-owl, super-late-night sort of person, but I haven’t been physically capable of staying awake past 9 PM because I’m so bone-tired at the end of the day – and yet, this is the most fun and excitement I’ve ever had in my life. Every day when I come home and take off my stinky boots and sweaty body armor, I feel like I’ve learned something real, and as the academy makes one more competent, it makes one more confident as well – and confidence goes a long way in law enforcement.

In the coming weeks, I’m sure I’ll be expressing this a lot – but I cannot wait until I am able to apply what I’ve learned at the SLETP in my career after I graduate.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Independence National Historical Park Week 5

This past week, Sarah and I had the privilege to work with the CRM or Cultural Resource Management department for an in-depth look at what makes Independence National Historical Park one of few "Icon" parks in the region. The CRM department includes the historians, archivists, museum curators, archaeologists, and historical architects that overlook all of the historical and cultural assets here at the park.

Our week started out in the archive department. In addition to be given a tour of the facility that houses most of the park records and important documents, we were given an idea of how they manage so much information. However, because many of the important documents and records predate computers, the department has the massive task of cataloging all of the information digitally. This is important so that future generations will be able to benefit from the information that has been collected here.

Part of our task while working in the department was organizing some of the archival photographs of Independence Hall. It gave us an interesting look at how the hall has changed over the past 100+ years.

It was really interesting to see even how work practices have changed over the years. While it may be difficult to see at this size, but the above picture from the early 20th century shows two painters painting the highest points on Independence Hall. Something tells me OSHA would have a problem with their method today....

Later in the week, we got to spend some time with the museum collections here at the park. There are several facilities around the park that house the vast collections in temperature and climate controlled environments to ensure they last as long as possible.

We then helped do a museum inventory that must be done multiple times a year to ensure no part of the collection goes missing. We were able to handle some artifacts and tools that date back to the 1700s. It was interesting to learn that many museums only display a small fraction of what is actually in their collection, and Independence National Park is no exception.

Hopefully we can update after we get to spend some time with the resident archaeologists and historical architect here at the park.

FOMC- Mayor's Conference & Maintenance

On Saturday, June 18th, 2001, there was a special event going on at Fort Mchenry- the Mayor's Conference. This year, the annual conference was held at Fort Mchenry National Park with a total of about 1,000 guests, mayors and their families. This event was really interesting to be a part of! I actively played multiple roles during the event, all of which were geared specifically to visitor and resource protection. I started out by working with the parking crew to smoothly direct visitors to the overflow parking lot and to parking outside the main gate. We reserved excess parking in the main lot for individuals with disabilities who possessed special parking placards or registration plates. I also assisted with ensuring that all visitors not a part of the Mayor's Conference to leave the park by 8pm, normal park closing hours. Once this was completed I was assigned to stand at the rope line, which I previously helped set up during my stay in maintenance. My role at the rope line was essential to visitor protection from the scheduled fireworks. I stood at the rope line and secured the area, while also getting an awesome front row seat for the fireworks. Everything was successful. My last major visitor protection role was to help ensure pedestrian safety once the event was over and the mayors and their families were returning to the buses. We kept pedestrians on the sidewalks at all times, except for when they were crossing with the aide of other Law Enforcement officers. Whenever I was working outside with traffic, especially when it started to get dark, I was wearing a safety vest and yellow parking gloves and equipped with a light stick and a flashlight. This allowed vehicles and pedestrians to see me more visibly, which made it easier to get their attention and direct them. More importantly, brightly standing out from my surroundings provides more safety to myself. The Mayor's event went so smoothly. I honestly do not think it could have gone any smoother. I thought that I getting everyone in and out of the park would have been very chaotic but it was not at all. We all worked together, knew our roles, and constantly communicated with each other. Not only were there no accidents of any kind, making the event a success, but everyone a part of the event enjoyed themselves as well. Afterwards, the Chief Ranger had a debriefing with everyone involved in the event to talk about what aspects of the event worked successfully and what aspects could be improved upon. We all went around in a circle and voiced our opinions on both then thanked each other for such a successful event and ending our evening.

I am still having a splendid time in maintenance! I went to Hampton for the first time this summer. Hampton is a different national historic site also managed by the same individuals from Fort Mchenry. It is completely different from Fort Mchenry. There is much more land, and Hampton is famous for the Hampton Mansion. It graciously sits on acres of land and is surrounded by several slave quarters, farm houses, and more. The mansion's vast beauty immediately grabs attention from all visitors. After the maintenance team and I drove out to Hampton, we weed-eated all around the fences, trees, buildings, and basically the entire area by the farm house. Communication is great and we always know what we are supposed to be doing. Working together really helps the job get done fast and efficiently. To tackle a large areas of land, we start out in separate areas and all weed-eat until we eventually meet up with one another, then we start another area. So far, we have been able to easily accomplish every task assigned to us and it has been really enjoyable! One thing I can say is that working with maintenance has given me a greater sense of attachment and love for my shower than ever before! I have worked really hard and had so much fun doing so. When my stay with maintenance comes to an end I am really going to miss it.

Harpers Ferry- Week 5

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.

On Tuesday, Mark and I had the opportunity to work along side the custodial staff. During the critical two hours before the Park opened, we cleaned all of the exhibits, museums and restrooms in the Lower Town area. These tasks are crucial to the operation of the Park and can make or break a visitors experience. Once the buildings in Lower Town were completed, Mark and I reported to the Mather Training Center to assist in cleaning insects from the light fixtures in the classrooms. The occupants of the Training Center greatly appreciated our work and thanked us for removing the insects.

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.

Our week with maintenance was extremely successful and informative. The Park truly could not operate without the individuals that comprise the maintenance division. These individuals take extreme pride in their work and keep Harpers Ferry in fabulous condition. Remember to always thank the maintenance staff as you see them around your park and assist them whenever possible. Enjoy your week!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week 5 at Antietam National Battlefield

This week Cailin and I had the honor of working with the awesome Natural Resources Staff.  Monday we began by checking the insect traps around the park for an invasive species know as the Emerald Ash Borer.  Luckily none were found in the traps.  Next we began working on the riparian buffer at the Mumma Spring.  A riparian buffer is the interface between land and a river or stream.  We started by removing all of the the invasive species of plant that we taking over the area and by clearing the feeder spring of debris.  .  

We next planted Witch-hazel and silver Maple Trees and spread native wildflower seeds around the area.  Planting these species is important since they will assist in keeping any run-off from the neighboring farm from entering the spring.

The trees were then protected by tree tubes to keep the native animals from eating the small trees.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday we assisted the Natural Resources Staff in clearing other non-native species of trees that began to sprout in the Poffenberger Farm area.  We helped haul the felled trees to a new wood pile that will be burned at a later date.  Wednesday and Friday mornings we headed in early to assist the Natural Resources Staff conduct a grassland bird survey.  We spent the last few minutes of Monday and Tuesday studying the birds to be able to assist the Natural Resources staff in the identification.    The survey helps determine if the prescribed burns brought back the necessary warm-season grasses for the uncommon birds of Antietam.  We helped by identifying the uncommon birds by their calls and by sight.  Thursday we an especially fun day as we spent it at Antietam creek.  In the morning we helped Rangers Andrew and Briana conduct an amphibian and reptile survey along the creek.  After the survey we meet up with Ranger Brian from the Interpretive division and Ranger Chris of Natural Resources for a guided talk with visitors about the Otto Farm area and the prescribed burn that took place there to restore the warm-season grasses.  It happened to be filmed by the local news paper that day for their online site.  
That afternoon we actually got to go into the Antietam creek with Rangers Andrew, Katie, and Briana hunting an invasive species of crayfish called the Rusty Crayfish.  This crayfish will out compete the native crayfish of the creek and even some fish.  They are extremely aggressive.  The captured crayfish will be sent to a Biologist at Hood College for DNA testing to see if they are spreading from the Potomac River or were breeding from the ones tossed into the river by a fisherman using them as bait. 
Cailin and I had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the job of a parks Natural Resource Staff.  Next week we will be spending time with the Interpretive Division and look forward to all of the knowledge we will gain from them.

Good Luck to all the other ProRangers,
Jim and Cailin  

Valley Forge NHP - Week 5

On Tuesday, Ben and I helped to welcome our new Field Trainee Ranger Joshua Baldwin. Fresh out of FLETC, we received a thorough first-hand account of what to expect during our time in Georgia. We sat through the field trainee orientation presentations that outlined how he is expected to act during the next 12 weeks at Valley Forge. Everything from expected uniform appearance to typical law enforcement duties at the park were covered, along with the standards that will be used to measure his performance.

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.
After, we went on a field trip with the division to sit in at a township meeting with the Valley Creek Restoration committee. This committee, comprised of township officials, locals, NPS staff and beyond, are primarily concerned with the health of Valley Creek. Valley Creek is an exceptional value waterway, the highest rating a creek is given by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, because it is natural spawning ground for Trout. Valley Forge is interested in the project because the last two miles of the creek run through our park before joining the Schuylkill River. The committee focuses primarily on bank restoration and storm water run-off management, these are the two factors that affect the stream the most. Ben was particularly interested in the meeting because it dealt with what he had been learning in his classes. The meeting gave him a deeper understanding of the two sides to industrial development and its connection to our environment.

We were with Maintenance for Thursday and Friday working on various projects. They started us off weed whipping early Thursday morning at two different redoubts in the park. The redoubts are reconstructed defensive fortresses that were designed out of wood and stone and covered with dirt for the purpose of making it difficult for British troops to advance. If the British were to march into Valley Forge, they would have been met by these large redoubts filled with cannons, muskets and men on the offense. We had to weed whip these redoubts to get them ready for the March Out on Sunday, June 19th. The March Out reenacts Washington's troops leaving Valley Forge, June 19th 1778, after their famous winter here.

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!
For the rest of the afternoon, we ran errands for the division. Ben and some other staff took the vehicles for refueling and went through the weekly checklist to ensure the vehicles were in good running order and well stocked. I helped the staff measure and log data collected from the invasive crayfish, as well as clean up from the day's activities. We all listened to Ranger Amy and Ranger Kate talk about the potentially new species of crayfish that had been found here in our stream. Carnegie Mellon University is now trying to confirm the existence of this new species through DNA testing. Results are expected by next year.
Reflecting back on our week, if there is one thing we learned about the Maintenance and Natural Resources divisions is that teamwork gets you everywhere!

We are looking forward to seeing everyone at Leadership Camp in a few weeks,
ProRangers Ben and Angela

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gettysburg (week of june 7)

This week I finished up interpretation training and focused mainly on designing an interpretive program. The instructors went into great detail and were very helpful in giving us step by step instructions on how we should design our programs and gave us pointers to help us when we actually give our programs. During the course of the training I was able to develop a theme for my ranger program, find specific locations as visual aids, and outline key points to go over on my program. I also got a chance to go on some of the other ranger programs which gave me an opportunity to see first hand how a ranger program is delivered and I actually learned a few things about the battle of Gettysburg as well. This week was very informative and helped a great deal in my development as a ProRanger.
During the week we were also given a break from training and went on a tour of President Eisenhower's home here in Gettysburg. It was amazing to see his home with all of the original furniture from the time he and his wife lived there. In my visit I learned that Eisenhower would regularly have important political figures from aroung the world as guests to get to know them on a more personal level. I have included photos from my  visit.

I was also able to volunteer my time this saturday (June 4) on the Friends of Gettysburg "friends day". On this day we built about a mile and a half of fence along areas of the battlefeild were the park has evidence there was fence during the battle. It was a good chance to meet some new people, help out the park, and get in a nice workout.