Thursday, June 9, 2011

Week 4 at Prince William: Charles Papacostas/Amber Hagan

Our fourth week at Prince William Forest Park was spent with administration. We sat in several meetings throughout the entire week and learned a plethora of information. Day 1 consisted of meetings with several very important people. We first met with Vidal Martinez, the Superintendent at our Park. Vidal is from New York and shared with us his roles as a superintendent. Vidal is in charge of outside relationships with neighboring agencies or businesses, as well as all of the internal interactions in the park. Mr. Martinez is very well rounded and compassionate about the agency. Vidal conveyed to us that this is common in the park service and it is the best agency in the world to work for. I tend to agree with this statement.

Following our meeting with Vidal, we met with George Liffert, the Deputy Superintendent. George shared with us what his roles are in the park. First and foremost he supplies support to Vidal. Specific ways that he does this include handling the purchase of nearby or adjacent land from private owners. George showed us all of the current private owners selling their property to the park. He also told us which properties were recently acquired. The house we are staying in has been acquired through purchase.

Following George we met with Tracy who is a secretary to Vidal, but much, much more than this. Tracy coordinates communicates with “Friends of Prince William Forest Park” and other agencies who help raise money for community events within the park. Tracy is also in charge of the vehicles at the park among other things.

Following Tracy we met with Laura. Laura was formerly at the Everglades for 14 years. Laura is in charge of the bills at the park. These bills include the phone, electric, gas, property, internet, and employee processing.

Finally we met with Kathy, the park safety officer. Kathy has been in charge of supervising us this week. We were given the task of coordinating/facilitating the All Employee Meeting this week. We wrote the agenda, designated food priorities for the picnic, and developed a small presentation on severe weather. We also sent out emails to the division chiefs regarding the meeting. The meeting is Thursday at noon and Congressman Wittman will be a special guest. The range of responsibilities that the administration office handles is an eye opener. We learned this by sitting in on the meetings throughout the day. I am surprised to see how much they are responsible for and impressed with the timely fashion to which they handle everything.

Day 2 we spent at the travel trailer village (former name) now known as the Prince William Forest RV Park. We met with the concessioners to discuss widening one of the lanes to include larger RV’s at the campground. Paul Petersen was also there to discuss the environmental assessment of doing this and assigning an employee to do the assessment in a 60 day time period.

Following the meeting we went to a staff meeting. The staff meeting included division chiefs and other supervisors. It had a formal agenda and each bullet was discussed until everybody agreed and was ready to move on. At the end of the meeting they did what they call recognitions where each division thanked people from other divisions for the help they provided to them that week. I loved this section of the meeting particularly, because a lot of times thank you is never said. This displayed a true level of respect and appreciation within the divisions of this park. I really like this aspect of the agency, and I am continually impressed by the friendliness and respect among the National Park Service employees.

Our next meeting was with the Federal Highway Administration. It was informative to sit in on this meeting and learn what road construction projects were underway in the park. The FHA had maps, and drawings to help all parties better visualize what was taking place. We also got to bring up a few of our own concerns regarding roadways within the park; some of which are already being addressed. I enjoyed this meeting a lot.

Our final meeting was with the park staff regarding the 75th anniversary camp out. We only listened for this event, because we will not be attending this event due to other ProRanger obligations. However, the park has tons of fun activities planned for the campers such as archery, canoeing, and mucking the lake.

Day 3 at the park began with a meeting with the environmental audit team regarding the lane widening at Prince William Forest RV Campground. Prizim Industries is the name of the team and they gave an impressive presentation. Following the meeting we went along and watched them perform the audit. I learned that the National Park Service takes protection of the environment very seriously. I am pleased to continuously learn this.

Charles and I worked on our severe weather presentation poster after lunch until we met up with Dave Ballam to set up the cones course for the All Employee Meeting. During this activity we received an EMS called to 2 lost female hikers, 1 of which who is injured. We responded with lights, and followed Dave with our vehicle to transport the hikers if needed. The hikers started and intended on doing a short 30 minute hike and got lost and had been out there for 3 and a half hours before receiving a cell phone signal to call for help. When we arrived we immediately put them into our vehicle with the air conditioner and applied ice packs to their bodies. Their faces were very red and they were sweating profusely. We took them to their vehicles after they cooled off and they followed us to the visitor center where they were given water to hydrate. We closed the call after confirming the females had recovered. We returned to cones course and theater to finish setting up for the All Employee meeting. Lesson Learned: anything can happen at anytime.

On Thursday, we spent the first part of our morning at Park Headquarters finishing up our poster describing the park’s emergency weather plan, particularly dealing with standard operating procedures and shelter locations in the event of a tornado or hurricane. After we finished, we drove to the theater Cabin Camp 4 to set up the all-employee meeting to be held at noon. The park staff contributed a wonderful assortment of foods, while the maintenance division grilled some delicious hot dogs for everyone. Following lunch, we called Congressman Wittman to the front to say a few words. Then the chief from each division gave a brief statement on the latest news from their department. After they all spoke, we gave our presentation on the emergency weather plan, determining locations for the Maintenance, LE, and Resource Management divisions to find cover in the event of a tornado or hurricane. We then all ventured outside and had the seasonal staff complete the driving course, and to end the event we all moved back inside the theater to cool off by eating ice cream. We had a ton of fun hosting this meeting, as it was certainly a great way to wrap up a fun week with Administration.

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