Thursday, June 23, 2011

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

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