Saturday, July 30, 2011

Amber Hagan-Week 10 Prince William Forest Park

Another crazy week at Prince William forest Park has ended and only 2 remain. I’m especially excited to write about what we did this week, and for numerous reasons. We were with maintenance most of the week and the United States Park Police the last day.
The week began on Tuesday with maintenance at 6:30am. We shadowed Scott Shea throughout the morning and learned a lot about the special projects taking place in the park such as restoring historic buildings, replacing roofs, and taking on termites. The most difficult part about all of these operations is that they must follow a special code that maintains their historic demeanor, because they are historic buildings. Everything done to the exterior of the building is very specific and cannot be altered in appearance. The interior of the buildings have slightly more leniency. Scott also showed us how the financial accounts work. Maintenance has a base account and a projects account. The projects accounts are separate, because they ask for funding for them in an entirely different program. I think the acronym for that program is PIMS, but it has slipped my mind. In the program, they upload before and after pictures that are public for people to come in and look at; a really neat feature for people to see the progress of the national park service in regards to up keeping historic structures. Scott and Veena taught us a lot in the few short hours we spent with them. I enjoyed my time listening to their talks.
We had lunch and spent the remainder of the day with Rocco Shroeder. Rocky has become one of the individuals I admire the most in the National Park Service. Rocky taught our wild land firefighting class and he stands out as a person with wonderful character to me. I trust him 100% to be my crew boss when I am dispatched to a wild land fire. Rocky took us to the sites in the park that are being restored and took photos to document the progress. We stopped by the administration building first to document the morning finding of termites in the walls. The damage to the structure is severe and this will be funded through the parks base account. The next site we went to was a cabin camp bathroom. Finally we ended the day with the sponge blasting/graffiti project at cabin camp 4. The graffiti is all over the walls and influences others to participate, so it is being removed. The most fascinating part about this is the method they are using to do this. They have a machine, and this is no ordinary machine. It uses sponge and shoots it out at the wall and this removes the very thin top layer of the wood. The most alluring part of this machine is that you scoop the sponge fragments back up after you use it, and reuse it up to 7 times. It’s a recycling sponge machine! We left this site and went home for the day.
Wednesday we spent with Rocky inspecting the Dams in the park. Most of the morning was spent at the staff meeting to discuss events taking place in the park and where we’re at with them. We ended right around lunch time and inspected the Dams following. We began at Carters Pond, an Earthen Dam right off scenic drive. Carters Pond was only just recently re-opened to the public for catch and release fishing. We inspected the dam for leaks, tall unmaintained grasses, tree roots posing a potential threat, and looked at the spill way. We noted our findings and went to another dam. The next dam was a man-made dam, but also a historic structure. The dam could use a lot of maintenance around and on the structure including a safety rail extending out to the center. The final dam we inspected that day was another earthen dam. We walked around the entire site and Rocky pointed out what used to be a swimming pool a long, long time ago for groups that came to the park to camp. Currently, it’s an extension of the lake and no longer a pool. There are, however, wooden benches and other remnants of a once highly used swimming area.
Thursday we ended up last minute going to the end of the summer youth exposition at Anacostia Park. Through conversations with Regional Chief Will Reynolds, we decided to go to the event and we definitely do not regret this decision. We traveled with members of the YCC and maintenance crew and I enjoyed the conversations we were able to have with them. The event began with a few talks from very important people. Representatives from youth groups got on stage and said a few words, including ProRangers Mark Clark and Jay Copper. After this we walked around to see what all of the youth groups had been doing throughout their summer. There were videos, poster boards, and cheers. We had lunch and then the noticed people lining up to a window. Turns out they were renting roller skates. Therefore, Sara, Meaghan, Jay, Mark, Charles, and I all put skates on and Dan and Will Reynolds photographed the event. I personally find these to be one of the most exciting events we have participated in this summer. Who knew we would go to this event and roller skate? I don’t know how to roller skate…neither do Mark and Charles. This alone made for a comical event!
We were later interviewed as a group regarding the ProRanger program. We all had a lot to say and hope to get the message out there to youth groups and the nation that this program is shaping the face of the National Park Service. We have a huge burden to carry and we do it with pride, professionalism, and integrity. The event ended and we went home.
Our final day this week will be forever recorded in my mind. We had a ride along scheduled with The United States Park Police, thanks to Scott Fear, Cindy Sirk-Fear, and David Ballam. I rode with an officer in district one and we had a great time. We patrolled the area near the Jefferson Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, the White House, Haines point, and the FDR memorial. We were given Kevlar vests to wear throughout the evening, which I really enjoyed. We did everything from running radar, to stopping cars for traffic violations (other than speed), to enforcing parking and no stopping rules, to helping tourists find their way around the city. There were still people walking around the sites at 1am, and I’m talking about families. I had no idea Washington D.C. was busy so constantly.
The best part of my night, by far, was performing security at the zero. The ellipse on the South side of the white house is a popular location for tourists to take photographs. However, any time the President or his family step outside onto a balcony, the secret service and the park police shut it down. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. We participated with shutting this down, because we were with the park police. From our location we were able to view the balcony, where President Obama was standing. Therefore, I am ecstatic to say that I not only saw the President, but I assisted in providing a security barrier for him. During the moment I was viewing President Obama, I also observed several dark figures walking across the roof of the white house, they were snipers. I have never felt such a surreal feeling in my life. It literally felt like something out of a movie and I was in awe at what was taking place. We stayed here for nearly 2 hours and then returned to our patrolling.
We stopped a vehicle at 12:15 for not using headlights and it turned out to be a 19 year old who had been drinking. He blew a pretty low number in the breathalyzer, but regardless, he was 19. The kid was given the break of his life and his mother came and picked him up. I feel that he was given a serious wake- up call as he immediately hugged his mother as she approached.
We left this call and went to Haines point to close it for the evening. It closes at 1am and reopens at 5am. We drove through with another unit and shuffled vehicles out of the area. We approached a vehicle and found a man sleeping inside of it. We asked him if he had been drinking and he said no. He drove away and we followed as it was the only exit. The man drove in the center of the two lanes and was swerving a lot in and out between the two of them. We stopped him. 2 other units arrived and assisted. The man was slightly irritated claiming he did not drink or do any drugs. They gave him a field sobriety test and he passed. He did not smell of alcohol at all. The officers inspected his hands and arms and found no indication of intravenous drug use. The man was no fully awake when he first drove away, and the stop certainly woke him up. His driving was dramatically improved the second time around. The ride along ended and I went home.
This week I learned a lot about the amount of pressure the maintenance staff has on them. They have a back log of tasks that is always increasing. Maintenance is a fundamental part of the Park Service team. I learn each week how much each division depends on one another and I saw the final piece of that this week as maintenance was our last division to work with. We will be with them again next week, too. The park police ride along was everything I had hoped for and more. They have a reputation in D.C. for being very serious when it comes to the law. I fully agree and I hope to ride with them again!

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