Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 8


During the past week I have spent my time with the Cape Hatteras Maintenance Division. The Maintenance Division is in charge of insuring that the park stays in tip-top condition, and that the visitors and staff have the best possible facilities for work and enjoyment. Throughout my time with maintenance, I experienced all of the required duties of the staff and was allowed to work on multiple projects.
Newly cleaned warehouse area

On my first day with maintenance, I spent the first part of the morning in the Cape Hatteras "Historic District". This area of Buxton, NC encompasses the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, visitors center, and the museum. The entire maintenance staff starts at this location each morning, in order to get all of the maintenance tasks completed before the visitation increases. My duty for this morning was to sweep out the steps and landings of the lighthouse. As mentioned in previous blog posts, there are 248 steps in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (257 if you count the 9 granite steps at the base!) Each morning, these steps and the 8 landings must be swept. This involves climbing to the top of the structure, and using a broom to clean each step on the way down. Sweeping the lighthouse was a great way to start the week, and it was refreshing to get in some exercise early in the morning!

After finishing the Historic District Duties, another worker and myself picked up litter and trash in the Buxton area. Next, we returned to the maintenance yard where we were assigned a cleaning project for the remainder of the day. The maintenance warehouse was in need of cleaning and reorganization, a perfect task for a warm summer day! Throughout the afternoon, we worked to organize the warehouse according to each area of work (plumbing, electrical, etc.). We also were able to recycle a few out of service items and free up additional space in the warehouse. At the conclusion of the day, the warehouse looked better than ever, and the maintenance staff was excited to see the improved area.

Freshly painted donation box
On my second day with maintenance I was given an independent project. At the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a small scale "Iron Ranger" is positioned for visitors to donated funds to the park. This donation box is painted with stripes that are made to resemble the real lighthouse. Unfortunately, the replica lighthouse donation box had fallen into disrepair, and was in need of a new coat of paint. On this morning, the maintenance supervisor assigned me to repaint the box! After receiving supplies, I carefully taped off the white strips of the "lighthouse". Next, I painted the white stripes and allowed the paint to dry before removing the painters tape. The next step in the process was to repaint the black stripes on the lighthouse. Due to the fragile nature of the fresh paint, I was unable to protect the freshly painted white stripes. Instead, I decided to "freehand" the application of the black paint. With much care and patience, I was able to successfully finish the painting of the lighthouse without making too many errors. Once I touched up a few spots, the lighthouse looked as good as new!

Following completion of my project, I rejoined the maintenance staff at the Cape Point Campground, where basic landscaping duties were underway. I was given the opportunity to use a string trimmer (known as a weed wacker, or weed eater to some) in order to trim the grass around each campsite. Maintaining the campsites is crucial to the campground operations, as it reduces the amount of bugs and snakes in the area and keeps the campground looking professional.

Trimming near the cabin housing area
My third day with maintenance was spent primarily using the string trimmer to maintain the grass at several locations and to widen the Buxton Woods hiking trail. The Buxton Woods trail is a .75 mile hiking loop that allows visitors to experience North Carolina's coastal woods. Periodically, the brush on the sides of the trail must be trimmed back to allow for safe passage. On this day, two of us were assigned to this project. In order to make the most of our time, we decide to each start on one end of the loop and meet in the middle. Following almost four hours of trimming, we were able to complete the trail maintenance. I really enjoyed this project, as it gave me an opportunity to experience the trail while still completing the needed work.

Power Washed section of fence
During my final two days with maintenance I completed several other small projects that were important to park operations. The most interesting of these assignments was my opportunity to power wash the wooden fence that surrounds the ranger station property. In the next few weeks, the maintenance staff is welcoming in YCC students who will be painting the ranger station fence. Prior to their arrival, the fence must be power washed in order to remove any dirt and debris that has accumulated over the past few years. Due to the location of the fence, it was necessary to use a park fire-hydrant as a water supply for the power washer. I was given to responsibility of making sure that all of the equipment required to use the hydrant was available and was tasked with finding a suitable adapter that could reduce fire hose to garden hose. Luckily,  another worker and I were able to build an adapter that would work for our project. After all of the supplies were found, we were ready to begin work! We began my hooking up all of our connections and insuring that everything was in working order. Next, we turned on the hydrant, started the power washer, and began the washing process. Over the course of the day we were able to wash a large section of fencing. This will allow the YCC workers to begin painting sooner, and help make the project run efficiently.

Fence washing in progress
During my week with maintenance I was able to experience the majority of maintenance duties. Additionally, I was allowed to work on a few independent projects around the park. This was a great learning experience that will benefit me during my last 4 weeks here at Cape Hatteras, and in the future.

Thank you for reading! 

Jay Copper

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