Monday, July 15, 2013

Antietam National Battlefield Weeks 7 and 8

Hey everyone!
Here we are at about the halfway point of our summer internships. It’s odd to think that in about a month in a half I’ll be back at home. SOOO weird. But that hasn’t slowed me down. These two weeks were really busy at Antietam National Battlefield.

There were many factors that contributed to high visitation in the park. In addition to what was mentioned in my previous blog, it was also a holiday week and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was just an hour and a half away. Also adding to the general workload of ANTI employees was the annual Salute to Independence event featuring the Maryland Symphonic Orchestra and fireworks. Under the guidance of our Incident Commander and Deputy IC, we all spent the week getting the final preparations set for the Salute to Independence.

When I got into work on Tuesday (working a Tuesday through Saturday week) Tom talked to me about what all needed to be done this week to prepare for Saturday. Throughout the week, Tom and I would head out to the main battlefield to check on the various teams getting ready for the Salute. Grass was being mowed, barricades were being put up and stage the orchestra was to perform on was being constructed right before our eyes. To lighten the load, I took up the “project” to prepare the radios and check the traffic flashlights that we would be using to safely exit our visitors. 

Those two projects didn't take too long and after I was finished with preparing those items, I worked the night shift on Friday with another ranger at this park. Every year, the night before the Salute, the MSO has a fundraiser in the form of a dinner. That night, the ranger and I helped out with parking the event and making sure everything was under control. It was good because I was getting some practice for the parking that I would be doing the next day. Also while we were working the night shift, we had to close the park and I during that time we had a discussion on how to handle a traffic stop during the night. With all the discussion and tips I was given, I was shocked and pleased that I actually got to see how this ranger handled a traffic stop. While we were patrolling and closing the park, we ran into a county police officer who was in the middle of a traffic stop. The ranger I was with decided to pull over and assist and I was able to see everything he told me in practice. After that, we did more patrolling and went to check on the MSO fundraiser. Once they were all cleared out, we locked up and decided to call it night. 

The next day was the big show. All the preparing everyone in the park did lead to the moment of hearing the Maryland Symphonic Orchestra and watching fireworks in the sky. I had the task of working under Ranger Joe Calzarette parking visitors who had passes in the "donut" area. When I arrived, he briefed me on what he wanted me to do and how he wanted everyone to be parked. Also working with me and Joe were Vinny Lemba from PRWI and Jennifer Pflugfelder from HAFE. It was really great working with them because I know how hard workers they both are (I had to make them both take breaks). Once we got the "donut" filled, we moved across the street to the pit area to help other employees with their parking. We were there for about an hour when our supervisor told us we could take a break and get ready to guide visitors out of the park. That was my favorite part of the night (besides the fireworks). I still can't quite put my finger on it, but I really enjoyed the traffic control aspect of the event. The night before when I was working the MSO fundraiser, the ranger also informed me on the danger of controlling traffic and how to be safe in an unsafe environment. I made sure to remember all that he said so that I could be safe and make sure everyone leaves the park safely. During that time there was a lot of stopping and going and during the stopping I had the opportunity to talk to the visitors and ask them if they enjoyed the event. Everyone I talked to had a great time that night, so I think the Salute to Independence was a success. 

The next week slowed down a bit and everyone got a bit of a break. Except Monday. Monday at around 10, Tom got a call from the Visitor Center about a stray dog that was walking in and out of the building. Tom and I went there right away to see about the dog and he was so friendly! It looked like the dog had been out wandering for quite some time so we wanted to get him back to his owner as soon as possible. Tom and I drove around the park and the town of Sharpsburg to see if anyone knew who the dog belonged to but we were unsuccessful. We took him back to the ranger station and Tom called the Humane Society to come take care of him. After giving him some food, water and attention, someone from the Humane Society stopped by to take the dog. 

The next day, we had to write up a report on the incident in IMARS. That was my second time this summer with IMARS experience, so I think I was a little familiar with it. Because of that, maybe, Tom had be do most of the work. At times it was pretty easy and at others, a bit frustrating. I'm glad I'm getting in practice, now; should be a "piece of cake" by the time I'm out of school. I can only hope. 

In keeping with the animal theme of the week, during a morning patrol, we were flagged down by a citizen in Sharpsburg about a deer that seemed strange. The deer was told to have been in the same location for about 12 hours and would not move if anyone came close to it. It seemed that the deer was sick, but it was out of our jurisdiction. Not wanting to leave it, Tom called dispatch to notify them of the deer and ask for assistance. Soon after, we ran into a State Trooper who responded to the call and Tom helped the trooper get the deer away from the town in hopes that it wouldn't come back. After that, it was a pretty quiet day at ANTI. 

Thursday, I went off site with Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof to talk to Cub Scouts about our jobs as Park Rangers. Chief Wenschhof wanted to give them a well rounded idea of what Park Rangers do, so he decided to bring with us the fire engine that we have at Antietam. The Scouts were split into three groups and we first talked about being a Park Ranger and then Chief Wenschhof gave me the task of telling the Scouts about rangers' other job of being a wild land firefighter. I talked about how a fire is fought and what tools the firefighters use. After the first two set of Scouts, Chief Wenschhof let me take over with the last group. I think (with the help of my chief, of course) I did a pretty good job. It was a lot of fun telling them about my job and I hope they all grow up to want to be Park Rangers.

The last day of these past two weeks I spent with Ranger Calzarette and his SCA as we went to a few locations around the park identifying Ash Trees (among others) to see where Emerald Ash Borer beetles could be located. The main purpose of our trip around the park was to identify the danger of EAB to ash trees and the danger that could have on the visitors. Ranger Calzarette's SCA has the job this summer to identify ash trees on trails and in our campground for monitoring because of the potential hazard. During that time with those two, they introduced me to many different kinds of trees. Something to impress my friends with when I return to Philadelphia. 

That's it for me! It's been a long two weeks and I've definitely had a relaxing weekend. 

Till next time!
Jess Cooper 

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