Monday, July 25, 2011

Shenandoah week 10

(before anybody gets bent out of shape it was over a 100 degrees with trails on this day and we were told not to where the uniform once we got out on the trail because it was unsafe and to protect our eyes from ridiculous amounts of sweat : )

Week 10

This week began with "leave no trace" training where Heather and myself our now certified to train others in the environmental steward techniques embraced by multiple agencies including the NPS. This was a fun experience and we learned a lot of good techniques. I think the most valuable for me personally was some of the role playing and advice we got on how to handle visitors who are not practicing these techniques and look at it more as an oppertunity to educate the visitor more then to enforce the policies.

I then went out with trails on a scorching day that was the hottest of the year here in Shenandoah. We preformed trail maintenance on Nicholson Hollow trail which is usually performed by the PATC. This entailed hiking the trail with lots of water and using non-mechanical tools because the trail runs through a designated wilderness section of the park. I personally used a tool known as a weed whip which has actually been used for thousands of years by various different civilizations and when used properly does a pretty good job! We also took turns clearing the trail of fallen trees by first using a hand saw then getting a group of us to pick up or shove the tree off the trail. This was hard work and really demonstrated to me that these trails if not maintained are continuously turned back to nature through various conditions that exist out in the environment.

I spent the rest of the week with the maintenance water crew. This consisted with going out with Jason, who is in charge of taking various readings around the park and the overall knowledge of the parks vast water system from either reservoirs or springs. This was interesting because it shows just how much infrastructure there is in the park to have some of the visitor facilities. depending on how you look at it this is either a good thing or bad. Infrastructure obviously means human development must occur which invariably changes the environment. But on the other hand this infrastructure provides good visitor amenities which makes their experience better. This is a fine line to walk, preservation and visitor satisfaction, there has to be a good balance for the park to maintain its identity and proceed with its mission.

I also spent the day at Skyland's waste water treatment plant to round out the week. This experience showed just how different employment in the Park Service can be and opened my eyes to just how much waste water ,sewage, is produced in this park. This water is regulated not only federally, but the State of Virgina which also monitors and regulates it. This means stringent precautions must take place, and all in all when you realize where this water is going, in this case the Chesapeake Bay, I was happy to know the park puts a lot of time and effort and money into the proper treatment of the waste water.

John Eichelberger

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