Friday, June 7, 2013

Harpers Ferry NHP Entry No. 1

I have been stationed here at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park (HAFE) for my second internship. I was only here once last year for Operational Leadership Training.  I was very excited to learn that I was coming back to HAFE as a summer intern. The town is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is also the meeting place where two large rivers, the Potomac and Shenandoah, combine into one. The views are remarkable and make the start of every day that much better just by walking out the door in the mornings. HAFE is a National Park Service site due to how much historical significance it holds. In 1799, the town became home to the United States Armory and Arsenal. Because of this, Harpers Ferry was also a checkpoint for the Lewis and Clark Expedition to stock up on tools and weaponry that were needed in order for their survival out West. The town also encompassed important means for transportation through the mountainous region such as the Robert Harper's ferry service, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, and the Winchester & Potomac railroad. Harpers Ferry is the site of abolitionist John Brown's raid in 1859 in his attempt to fight against slavery. The town has also played a dramatic role in the Civil War, switching sides 8 times and being the site of numerous battles between the Confederates and the Union.
I have already learned a lot during my first weeks here. Due to this being my second internship, I will be spending more time with law enforcement. My first few days were spent to orient me with the park. I learned that Harpers Ferry is home to the Stephen T. Mather Training Center, where trainings and meetings are held for park service employees nationwide. The building used to be the Storer College until 1955. The Interpretive Design Center, which is also located in Harpers Ferry, creates all of the interpretive tools and media for the entire agency. Every wayside sign, brochure, video, map, and other related items have all been designed in the facility. I visited the buildings for each division, and met park staff , as well as the other interns and volunteers who will be working here this summer. I also learned that two other NPS sites actually go right through our park, the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail. My supervisor gave me a tour of the other areas of the park that are not as frequently visited by tourists or that are closed off to the public. I was surprised with how big HAFE really is. Before this summer, I thought the park only consisted of Lower Town which is in West Virginia. But the park owns large parcels of land throughout Maryland and Virginia as well. We took a hike down Short Hill in Virginia until we reached the shores of the Shenandoah River. My supervisor explained to me this is a prime area for catching illegal drinking and relic hunting. We drove to an area know as Dam 3 that used to be the water intake for an old power plant. Illegal drinking and dumping has been frequent to this area. Also the old power plant building has been looted for copper in the past years. Another LE ranger here took me to Murphy's Farm to show me an overlook that could be potentially dangerous for individuals, as they had someone fall here in the past.
View from Murphy's Farm Trail
My Tahoe for the summer
A section of the Appalachian Trail through HAFE
Myself at the entrance of John Brown's cave (CLOSED TO PUBLIC DUE TO SAFETY HAZARDS)
My supervisor allowed me to borrow a government vehicle to use to drive to work and to open/close the park. I was taught the procedure behind opening and closing the park, and I will be responsible for doing so when working the appropriate shifts.  I joined my supervisor during patrol each day as we looked for visitor assists and violations. He showed how he approaches a car and makes contact with the driver. He went through the different safety precautions you should take, such as printing the back of the vehicle, looking into the back seats as you approach, watching the hand movements of the driver, and  always looking up to observe the driver's motion once back in the patrol car and writing the citation/warning.  Then we went over the citation itself and all of the information needed to complete one. We discussed mandatory court appearance, the different payment options, and how all of this information needs to be relayed to the driver. I also learned how to write a probable cause statement.  Later on in the week, my supervisor had to participate in a conference call over a on-going natural resource case. It was interesting to see the different divisions working together to pursue the case with the help of the solicitor.
The next week I was able to participate in a NEVO course, which stands for Non-Emergency Vehicle Operations. My supervisor and I set up the course in our own Cavalier Heights parking lot. The course consisted of a 3 point turn,  right side parallel parking, left side parallel parking, a j-hook, and backing up into a parking spot. I have not had the need to parallel park since my driver's test back when I was 17, so it was a very good feeling to know I can still do it. I even parallel parked a double cab Ford truck! My supervisor showed a power point on driving safety and what to do if you get into an accident. His presentation made me realize I should be more cautious of other drivers, no matter how good of I driver I am. He also taught me some good safety skills that I have never practiced before.
The patrol truck I parallel parked.

 I was also involved with an employee training on a new safety device the Stephen T. Mather Training Center had received. This device carries disabled or injured people down flights of stairs during an incident where the building needs to be evacuated quickly. The stair chair makes it accessible for one person to carry a load up to 350lbs down the stairs all by him or herself. The device had never been used before, so it had to be tested out by the employees in order to know how to use it correctly. I volunteered to be the test dummy for the training. Although I was having a lot of fun riding in the chair, I knew that this training was very important and it would be unfortunate for it to ever have to be used in a real situation.

I was introduced to IMARS, the Incident Management, Analysis, and Reporting System that the Department of the Interior uses. It is a nationally based program for reporting citations, warnings, incidents, and EMS calls.  This system is fairly still new to the NPS, so we went over all the different information needed to be filled out for an incident. I learned how to take apart a handgun, shotgun, and a semi-automatic rifle. I helped one of the LE rangers clean their weapons in order to learn the right techniques that should be applied. I was given a tour of Grandview, the LE office that was formerly a school. The evidence custodian showed me around the evidence room and taught me the proper procedures behind filing new evidence. I explored the fire and EMS caches to check out all the tools and supplies that are available for use in these situations. We went through the EMS kits in the back of the patrol vehicles and went over the tools that I would be able to use to help during an emergency. I cannot wait to do EMS training when I get back to school in the fall, for I think that is something I really want to learn.


  1. Jen
    Your pictures are great; they really show the beauty of your park as well as the hard work you’re putting into your internship. That new safety device would be a big help for all law enforcement divisions across the NPS because it looks like it’s a big help when transporting persons down steps. Good luck with the rest of your summer.
    Daviryne Hall

  2. Jen is a very squared away pro ranger and will make a great asset to the NPS. She is very enthusiastic and learns quick. She also has a great lead in Mark Howard, and has had several ride a longs with me. I look forward to working with her more and want to state that all the past pro rangers at Harpers Ferry have been excellent and I look forward to working with them in the field some day.

    Eric Sheetz, Harpers Ferry LE Ranger (10 years LE).