Saturday, May 26, 2012

Valley Forge National Historical Park - Weeks 1 & 2

            Hey Everyone! I am Lexus Ocampo and I am a Cohort 3 ProRanger. This summer I am at Valley Forge National Historical Park along with my fellow cohort member, Eric Morgan. Valley Forge National Historical Park is only a 30 to 45 minute drive from Philadelphia so on Saturday the 12th, Eric and I went to visit our park for the first time. We went in plain clothing and experienced a visitor's experience before we will experience the perspective of the different roles within the park. That Saturday we looked through the exhibits in the Visitor's Center and then we walked the main trail called the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail.  On Monday, May 14th, Eric and I both moved into Valley Forge NHP. The place we are staying at is called Furnace House and it is located inside of the park. Furnace House is only a mile away from the Visitor's Center and the Ranger Station. 
Furnace House

            Tuesday was our first day and our first assignment was to drive to Delaware to pick up two government owned vehicles from the GSA. It was raining that day and luckily Eric and I were occupied in the administration building filling out a lot of paper work. After all the paper work our supervisor, Chief Tinkham, gave us a general tour of the park. Chief Tinkham showed us the main roads, trails, and monuments. For the rest of the week, Chief Tinkham assigned us to do patrols. Hiking and patrolling different areas of the park helped Eric and I to learn the park hands on rather than just studying a map. We hiked many paths and got lost many times. Wednesday and Thursday we patrolled the southwestern and middle sections of the park and on Friday and Saturday, Eric and I bike patrolled the northern areas of the park. By the end of that week Eric and I became very familiar with the park that we had no problems guiding lost visitors to where they needed to go. Two of the most memorable parts of our first week at Valley Forge was the role playing exercise with the new seasonal law enforcement ranger. That day, Eric and I learned a lot of new techniques and practices that officers do in order to keep safe while on the job.
Bike Patrol around Washington's Headquarters

Exploring ruins of an old building along a trail

Being pulled over by Ranger Hannah during a role playing exercise
            Week 2 at Valley Forge, Eric and I were assigned to do maintenance work on Tuesday and Wednesday. Our project for those two days were to remove an old deer enclosure and to put up a band new fence. Eric and I worked with AmeriCorps to build the fence. We worked well together and we turned what could have been a three day project to two days. We took down 100 yards of rusted fencing and removed old rotting, wooden posts. We replaced the old posts with metal posts and we used concrete to give parts of the fence a better foundation.  After our project, Eric and I were assigned to do some more patrols and afterwards we attended the LE Rangers' BBQ. At this event, Eric and I were able to speak more with Tim Oh, the first ProRanger to graduate from the program. During Week 2 we also experienced preliminary court hearings that took place within Valley Forge NHP's Education Center. Eric and I were able to travel to Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site for one of our interpretation days. Hopewell Furnace is like Valley Forge's sister park in which its LE Rangers respond to calls of Hopewell Furnace. Also, the superintendent of Valley Forge is also the superintendent of Hopewell Furnace. Hopewell Furnace is smaller than Valley Forge, but it has interesting sites and a very enthusiastic staff.  
Livestock at Hopewell Furnace 

More livestock at Hopewell Furnace...

            The first two weeks at Valley Forge have been very fun. Eric and I were able to meet and help many people through our patrols. While on more isolated trails, people seemed very happy to see us there and a few have told us that they usually don't see rangers on that trail. Our short conversations with the visitors gave me the impression that our presence on the trails gave those visitors assurance that the park was safe and well maintained. Visitors always seem happy to see us and many people seem comfortable to come to us with any questions and a few even want to take a picture with us. From my experiences so far, it seems to me that the presence of National Park Service Rangers' presence around the park, not just inside the Visitor's Center or LE patrol vehicles, is just as important that the park's natural and historical resources itself. I am very excited for the upcoming weeks at Valley Forge. Next week I am looking forward to meeting and helping new people especially during National Trails Week. Be sure to stop by the blog next week to see what new things us ProRangers have encountered. 
AmeriCorps and the fence we put up

Posing inside a Park Ranger patrol vehicle 

Posing with a group of visitors at Hopewell Furnace

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