Saturday, May 19, 2012

Colonial National Historical Park Entry 1

Sunday afternoon, my fellow Proranger and I finally completed our journey to Colonial National Historical Park. The ride down was amazing in itself. It was nice to leave the daily grind and observe the serene views of America's true country side. The five and a half hour ride finally concluded as we rode over the bridge and made our way into Yorktown. At the Yorktown Visitor Center we met Park Ranger Shuni Brewer, who we would be shadowing for the duration of our internship. She showed us to our temporary house right outside of Historic Williamsburg. 
Our first week at Colonial NHP was designated as orientation week. We joined Ranger Brewer and our supervisor Chief Doak for patrol rides to tour the different locations of the park. We met and conversed with most of the park personnel. We learned the historical significance and the mission of our park. Park jurisdiction, common violations, and the most problematic areas of the park were explained. Overall, after this first week, my expectations have been far surpassed. I was a tad weary about leaving home for the first time. But with the welcoming park employees, beautiful views, amazing historic values, multitude of wildlife, and endless possibilities, I think the summer will go by too fast for me!
Colonial NHP consists of two historically significant sites and the Colonial Parkway that unites them together. The most southern site on the Virginia Peninsula is Historic Jamestown, which lies along the James River. Here one can observe the archaeological site of the old fort remains, the "New Towne" area to the east, the Glasshouse with live glassblowers, and the Island Drive tour road of Jamestown Island's woodlands, marshes, and wildlife. 
Yorktown is the park's most northern site bordering the York River. The NPS owns the Yorktown Battlefield, some of the historical homes in town, and the Yorktown Cemetery. There are tour roads that travel throughout the battlefield highlighting turning points of the battle. The Yorktown Victory Monument commemorates the Allied forces victory in the last battle of the Revolutionary War. 
The Colonial Parkway is also a part of Colonial NHP. It is a 23 mile road that connects Jamestown and Yorktown. The parkway is a 3 lane road, with the center as the passing lane in designated areas. It is made up of 10 foot slabs of aggregate concrete and rock, with James River Rock. The parkway is about 4 to 6 inches thick, and was built without lane markers in order to blend in the with cultural and natural resources. The parkway was started in the early thirties and was completed in 1957. The Colonial Parkway is actually measured kilometers using off-road posts,  with K1 starting in Yorktown and K36 at the Isthmus Bridge in Jamestown. The Colonial Parkway bears beautiful views of both the river, the woodlands, and the wetlands of the Virginia Peninsula with many scenic overlook stops along the way. 

My second full day working at Colonial NHP was one for the books! The park held a ceremony in front of the Yorktown Victory Monument for the Joining Forces initiative. Members of each military branch were present, as well as Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ken Salazar, Director of the NPS Jonathan B. Jarvis, and Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. In honor of the service the military provides, all of the members received free passes to not only National Parks, but other public lands as well. These passes include their dependent family members! It was an impressive, as well as moving ceremony, as I am very proud of the men and women who protect our nation. It was nice to get to know some of them after the ceremony was over. I do not think I will ever forget the day I was able to shake the Secretary of the Department of Interior's hand! What a way to start off my summer internship! This can only mean there are great things to come, not only for this summer, but for my future in the National Park Service. 

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