Saturday, August 13, 2011

Valley Forge NHP - Week 11

Our second to last week at our internship has been almost entirely Law Enforcement focused. Tuesday, we attended an all employee meeting aimed at informing us of the TMAP process, or Transition Management Assessment Program. With a new Superintendent stepping in, a comprehensive report detailing everything about the park is compiled by a selected TMAP committee. After all employees are interviewed, the TMAP committee creates a factual report as to what is working, and what is not, in the park. All of this information, kept anonymous, will be made available to the new superintendent. Part of the group that was leading this report was our own Regional Chief, Chief Clarke. After the meeting, we took this opportunity to talk with Chief Steve Clark. He asked about our experiences so far this summer, so we explained to him all we have learned in our eleven weeks. After the meeting, we patrolled Mt. Joy and as we were patrolling, we noticed how much we grew into our roles. We are able to exert our authority and help others with greater confidence than when we had first started.

After lunch, we bike patrolled the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, or the JPM for short. The Joseph Plum Martin Trail is named after a young soldier who was encamped at Valley Forge and left detailed notes about his experiences as an infantryman. This trail is a 6 mile loop of the park and runs through many of the park’s historical sites from the Encampment tour such as Muhlenberg’s Brigade, Varnum’s Quarters, and The Arch. This is the most popular trail in the park as it is also widely used for recreational use. The long winding trail and rolling hills make for a challenging running and biking area. The people we encountered on the trails were excited to see us on the trail and mostly asked us for directions around the park. Once we completed the loop, we sat in on a Once Upon a Nation session. Once Upon a Nation is a partnership with Valley Forge that sends volunteers to the park to tell stories about life during the encampment. This particular story highlighted General Von Stuben’s arrival to the Continental Army and how he overcame language barriers to train the soldiers.

Wednesday was split between Natural Resources and Law Enforcement. We started the day by making tags for enclosed areas within the park. Old tags needed to be replaced because they had either fallen off, or they were difficult to read. We marked the new tags stamping the numbers on one side, and using hammer and screwdriver or drill to chisel the NPS initials on the other. Once the task was completed, we went to the Ranger Station to meet with Chief Clark. Each of us had the opportunity to speak with him one-on-one to give our insights on Valley Forge’s safety culture. We also had the opportunity to ask questions, and discuss our concerns about our future careers.

In the afternoon, we went to Binky Lee Preserve where we meet up with the SCA and YCC groups affiliated with the Natural Resource division. The preserve is located about 20 minutes outside of the park and is a privately owned and operated natural lands trust spanning about 112-acres. We were sent out by NPS to help cut vines that were strangling out the young, native trees. The manager of the preserve was also a fire expert and explained how fire is used in Pennsylvania to help encourage regrowth in the ecosystem.

Thursday, Chief Tinkham assigned us the task of checking all the fences located in the park to see which needed repair. Valley Forge is closed at dark until 7am, so at dusk the Rangers are required to close all the gates, and then reopen them in the morning. The gates stand as a reminder to visitors that the park is closed, should they not see the afterhours sign. To check the gates, we closed and locked them. Doing this helped us to see if the gates lined up properly and swing adequately. Then we would open the gates and place them on the resting posts to check if the gate could lined up on the posts comfortably. Finally, we noted any damage or missing pieces on the gates. The task proved to be quite large, so by lunchtime we were only about half-way through the entire park.

For lunch, we attended a picnic hosted by Natural Resources. At the picnic, we had the opportunity to talk about the ProRanger program with interested high school students from YCC and SCA Philly. While eating, we received notice of a hideout that was found in the woods just off of the River Trail. Being how we patrolled that area heavily, we were interested in exactly where the hideout was and how large.
Whoever made the hideout certainly spent a lot of time constructing the shelter. There was a tarp roof over a sleeping area comprised of three sleeping bags on elevated sticks. The maker of the hideout even weaved branches and sticks together to recreate a door and walls around his quarters.

We found no illegal substances and no form of identification, so we simply disassembled the hideout and removed all belongings. It is unclear how long the hideout had been there, as it was off the trail some distance, and if anyone actually still lived there. The only creature we found in the sleeping bags was a large spider!

On Friday, feeling confident in ourselves, Ben and I decided to walk the JPM. Being how this trail is by far the most heavily used, it is a good place to for us to patrol. The portion of JPM Trail that we hiked was about 5 or 6 miles, so we took our time and interacted with everyone that was willing to talk with us.

In the afternoon, after a change of clothes, we took the canoe out for some river patrol. Ben and I are a lot more coordinated with operating the canoe, so we had time to relax a little and enjoy the river. After paddling hard through the small portion of rapids, it was smooth sailing down towards Betzwood. We stopped at Catfish Island, a small portion of land on the Schuylkill inhabited by nesting Canadian geese, because we thought we saw some clothes in the bushes. Turned out it was just debris that probably washed downstream and into the bushes with the heavy rain flow a few days earlier.

Saturday was a good day for us to catch-up on some work that we were given earlier. First, we were asked to run some errands for Law Enforcement. Always willing to help, we arrived at Maxwell’s, my favorite building in the park, to help move some tables. After loading the tables up, Ben and I walked through the house knowing that it was probably the last time we would be inside before the end of our summer internship. The house is my favorite not just because of its beauty and wonderful location in the park, but also because of its architectural style. Three floors of small rooms and hallways nesting within larger rooms is a dream for anyone interested in hiding spots and crawl spaces. Plus, there are rumors that the house is haunted.

After our task was completed, we continued working on our gate project until the end of the day. We hit a lot of the Western side of the park and finished up at the North end. It was a great project for us because Law Enforcement needed to know the condition of the gates and we could continue being the eyes and ears of the park. We finished our shift by typing up our conclusions and emailing them to our Chief for use at his discretion. After finishing this two day project, we felt accomplished and ready to head into our weekend.

Looking forward to finishing our last week strong,
ProRangers Ben and Angela

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