Monday, July 9, 2012

Administration and Law Enforcement with Colonial NHP

Being a ProRanger, I want to be well-rounded in all of the divisions of Colonial NHP. Administration is a very important division for running a national park, and luckily I was able to work with them for a week. The administration headquarters is located in the Yorktown Visitor Center. I started the week off there with Monday morning's squad meeting. Here, all the leaders from the different divisions met together to discuss events and ideas from the previous, current, and future weeks. These meetings are vital to make sure that the divisions know the tasks at hand and are working cohesively together. There were different call to actions discussed, as well as new projects that had arose. For example, the land around the Colonial Parkway has and will continue to erode over time, eventually putting the road underwater. Administration put together the new Shoreline Project that will take place over the next few years, which will be completed by the Core of Engineers.

During this week, I worked with the Administration Officer and Assistants, as well as the Budget Analyst and the Business Management Specialist. I learned a lot about the new finance system that all of the national parks will have to use called the Federal Business Management System. I was taught about payroll, the purchasing process, money deposits, government charge cards, DOI Learn, the funding system, employee benefits, employee background checks, and many other things. I also learned about what concessions mean for the parks and was able to visit the different ones located throughout Yorktown.

During my week with Administration, I spent a whole day with the VIP Coordinator. VIP literally stands for Volunteers in Parks, but they actually are "Very Important People" as well. I had no idea how much volunteers have improved the park. Colonial NHP has 85 volunteers that work here every week. We took a tour of the different areas of the park that the volunteers have worked on. The volunteers were responsible for many various projects, including the repair of wayside markers, maintaining the lawn, constructing new benches to replace old ones, removing the evasive bamboo, as well as much more! Many volunteers also work in the visitors centers at the help desks as well as give tours to the public. Colonial NHP would not be as great as it is today without the work of the VIPs. I have a ton of respect for the volunteers who express their dedication and pride in the parks each week. 

In the middle of the week I was able to spend time with the park's Superintendent. We sat in for one of his meetings with the Superintendent of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. This historical route that tracks the  Southward movement of Washington and Rochambeau's armies  is significant to Colonial NHP because the two armies' end point was Yorktown, Virginia to fight off British General Cornwallis, which was what we know as the Siege of Yorktown. It was really interesting to watch two Superintendents work together to reach one common goal.

My week with Administration ended with a full day with the park's Information Technology Specialist. We  drove around with him all day to the different ends of the park as he was constantly called up by another park employee to fix some type of problem with the computers or other pieces of technology. The IT Specialist has to have a lot of experience with different types of equipment in order to properly do his job. To me his job seems extremely difficult, as I am terrible with computers and always seem to break them.

I finally started ride-alongs the next week, which was my first experience with Law Enforcement. I rode around with my supervisor in her Chevy Caprice for the first two days. Colonial NHP has a long 23 scenic parkway, so most patrols for the LE Ranger are street patrols. The Colonial Parkway is supposed to be a scenic tour rode that connects the Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown) together, but many locals use it as a commuter road as well. This creates the ideal road for traffic violations. On my first day, not even two hours in, we saw a hitch-hiker on the side of the parkway. Hitch-hiking on the Colonial Parkway is prohibited. After confronting the hitch-hiker, obtaining his ID, and relaying it to Dispatch, we found out that this man had a protective order still to be served from a nearby city. After waiting for the appropriate paperwork, he was served his order and we let him go on his way. But only after warning him of his hitch-hiking violation. Over these two days I saw many speed violations and learned the proper way to cite a driver for a violation or how to write warnings. I also learned the different codes for violations and the ones for radio communications, like the ten-codes and the phonetic alphabet. We discussed the different things to look for while driving, like erratic driving behavior, expired registration or inspection stickers, and the usage of seat belts.

Wednesday, of course, was Independence Day! The York County held the annual fireworks this year and shot them off a barge in the York River. The town of Yorktown itself was the perfect vantage point for the fireworks. There was also a small parade held that day in town, early in the morning. The National Park Service worked together with York County PD to operate the day's festivities. Although Colonial NHP was not hosting the show, they allowed parking on the battlefield for up to 2,600 cars. They also allowed for visitors to watch the fireworks on their property, like on the beach picnic area.  This 4th of July event was run under the Incident Command System (ICS.) I am really starting to enjoy working such big events and appreciate having so much experience with them already only as a ProRanger! My duties for the day was to do Bike Patrol around the town and beach area and some Street Patrol as well. I also had to control the closure of the Yorktown Visitor Center parking lot for the evening with the unmarked Ford Explorer. Bike Patrol was a lot of fun, even on such a hot day. Down at the beach area, we found lots of people with alcohol which is prohibited in public areas in the state of Virginia. They were forced to either dump all of it out or to get a ticket for the alcohol and for it to be confiscated. While on the bikes, we were still easily accessible for visitors to talk to us and ask us questions about the event or the park. I enjoy helping people who are truly interested in the park's history and now from my weeks in Interpretation, I can answer their questions accurately! We were also able to meet up with police officer from York County who were also on bike patrol. I had a good time meeting other law enforcement officers and talking to them about their experiences. During Street Patrol, we drove to the other end of the park to see if all laws were being obeyed down near Jamestown. Some of the scenic waysides have their own beaches to the James River like College Creek and Archer's Hope. We checked out the areas for alcohol or other illegal activities. In one situation I observed specific citizen's rights where we were not allowed to look inside a closed cooler even though we suspected the kids had alcohol due to the empty "beer koozies" in their hands and their denial for allowing us to look into the cooler. 

After my shift was over at 8, I hung out around Yorktown to watch the fireworks at 9. I wanted to see how the Colonial NHP controlled the crowds and dealt with such a big show. I thoroughly enjoyed the fireworks and it seemed as if everyone else did as well. The park did a great job of keeping everyone safe and satisfied, as well as keeping all park resources intact as well. In my opinion, there was no better place to celebrate the Fourth of July than the town where we finally won our independence over the British!

The last two days of the week I spent with another Law Enforcement Ranger here. She took me on foot patrol and showed me some of the illegal trails in Yorktown where she can find lots of  people with drugs and alcohol. One of these areas is called the Coves. There is also another area called the Bamboo Forest. Both areas are marked as No Trespassing Areas. I really enjoyed trekking up to the Coves, although we did not find any illegal activity. After checking out the trails, we went on Street Patrol to look for traffic violations. She gave me a lot of good advice on how to deal with certain situations that I am sure to deal with in the future. We talked about the Code of Federal Regulations and the United States Code. She also explained to me the different types of searches a law enforcement officer can perform depending on the situation. The first one is a consent search, where the suspect gives the officer permission to look in specific areas. The second search is called probable cause, where the officer needs to be able to observe something in plain sight or smell to be able to have enough evidence for a search without consent. Another search is called the inventory search, where the officer looks throughout the car after it has been impounded and that evidence can still be used against the suspect in court. The last is the incident to arrest search, where an officer is allowed to search a car after an arrest has been made but only in the areas relating to the incident. I also learned about the "Terry Frisk" and its origins. Back in the '60s, police officer in Ohio had reasonable suspicions that a group of men had weapons and were planning a robbery. He searched the suspects without having any visible evidence and still found two guns on the men. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as  Terry v. Ohio and was found not to have broken the 14th Amendment. From then on, law enforcement officers have been allowed by law to briefly frisk someone who they have strong suspicions of having a concealed weapon. But they can only feel for hard objects that could be lethally used.

These past two weeks were extremely informative to me. I feel as all divisions in the NPS should have an understanding about Administration since they do a lot of work in the background that keep the park and its employees working effectively. I was also happy to finally work with Law Enforcement and learn much valuable information in such a short amount of time. I am excited for the weeks to come. The next two weeks I will be spending with Maintenance! I am sure they will keep me very busy so I will have another long post for everyone to read, but I will try to get more pictures. Thanks!

Erik and I patrolling the "Bamboo Forest."

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