Thursday, June 13, 2013

Antietam NB Week 3

Hey everyone!

I can't believe I am already writing to you all about my third week at Antietam National Battlefield. It still feels like I just got here. Time is flying by. I hope everyone else is enjoying their summer as much as I am.

Week 3 was almost like any other one. It started with the regular patrol around the park. Nothing was out of the ordinary on that Monday morning. When Tom and I got back to the ranger station, he was informed by another ranger of a contact that was made at the swimming hole of Antietam Creek. During the warm season and weekends, Antietam Creek gets a significant amount of visitors and with more visitors the risk of criminal activity has the potential of getting higher. Over the weekend, a ranger made a contact with a group of visitors engaging in illegal activity and had some evidence that would be useful if the visitor would decide to go to court. Tom gathered the evidence and showed me how rangers at ANTI would enter it into the evidence locker and explained to me the process of getting rid of evidence once there is no use for it.

Later that day, we got news of United States Senator from New Jersey, Frank Lautenberg's death. In addition to being in Congress, Sen. Lautenberg was also the last World War II veteran that has served in the Senate. To honor his devotion to public service, flags around the park were flown at half mast and I assisted Tom with that task. As a political science major (and general policy wonk) I could not think of a better way to spend some of my day as a public servant.
Me lowering the flag at Antietam National Cemetery

Flag at half mast

Later on that week, I did more driving around the park with Tom, but there were opportunities for us to get out of his Tahoe. One of my favorite things to do here is walk the trails that are in the park. The one I did more recently is the Snavely's Ford Trail located near the Burnside Bridge. That trail is about 2 miles long and goes in a loop so we ended up where we started. I like walking the trails because it gives me a change of scenery and I think it is important because it gives park visitors a chance to see a ranger outside of the visitors center. Before we went on our walk, Tom informed me that we need to call into central to let them know that we will be out on foot patrol. That is important because if something were to happen to us, the operators at central dispatch would know where to find us; the same goes for if there is an emergency somewhere in the park, we would know where to be found. Before leaving the vehicle, I had the task of calling central and after a few practices between me and Tom, I felt confident enough to use the radio to call dispatch and let them know we were going on foot patrol. While walking the Snavely's Ford Trail, I learned more about the history and natural resources of Antietam. After that refreshing walk, we got back into the vehicle where I, again, had the task of calling dispatch to let them know we had completed our foot patrol. 
View from the Observation Tower

Also, that week, I spent some time with the Natural Resources team here at the park. Their offices are actually in the ranger station, so I wasn't too far from "home". I spent Thursday with Ranger Calzarette as he showed me around the park from a resource management point of view. It was very interesting seeing the park from a different standpoint. During our time together we discussed the Antietam National Battlefield General Management Plan of 1990 that restored the park back to how it would have looked during the time of the battle. He explained to me how the resource management team has been working towards that goal for over 20 years and when the park is expected to look like it did in 1862. We also talked about how because of the GMP of 1990, the natural resources are also cultural resources. They are there to assist in telling the story of the Battle of Antietam. It was great spending the day with Ranger Calzarette because I learned a lot about the resources in the park; things I probably would not have known. 
The Witness Tree

 One of my favorite features of the park is the Witness Tree at the Burnside Bridge. While there is a plethora of trees and plants all throughout the park, this tree is the only one that has been there during the battle, as confirmed through photographs. The Witness Tree is one of the most popular trees in the park and is a cultural resources as well as a natural resource. Ranger Calzarette told me about how the tree could possibly be endangered and what the staff at the park could do to prolong its life. For example, I really shouldn't be standing that close to the tree. As you can see, the Witness Tree is not getting enough water and nutrients where it needs it the most. After learning all of that, I won't be standing that close to the tree next time I am there. 

In addition to learning about the park from a resource management standpoint, I also learned about the park from the point of view of the park's biotech. During that time, I was told about other threats to the park in the form of overpopulation, invasive species and diseases and what could be done to fix those problems. I was also meant to do some field work, but because of the rain, it got postponed. Sometime this summer I will be back with the Natural Resources crew to do field work and I will be sure to tell you readers all about it. 

Till next time


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