Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 9

Hello followers,

This past week at Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been full of new and exciting experiences! I began my work week on Monday morning by attending Federal Court with the Law Enforcement Rangers at the park. The parks closest Federal Court is in Elizabeth City, NC, therefore, we had to leave early in order to be on time. After we arrived at the courthouse, the Rangers met with the Assistant United States Attorney to discuss their cases. Next, we made our way into the courtroom, where each case was put before the Judge. The Judge reviewed the details of the each incident, and called on the Rangers to give their account of the events. Then, the Judge would talk to the defendant and their attorney, to decide how the cases should be adjudicated. After weighing the facts of the case, the Judge made his ruling, and the next case was called.

Throughout the entire courtroom experience I was able to learn several things about presenting cases in court. First, the Rangers report is very important to the case. It may be several months before an incident is presented in court. Therefore, the Rangers report must include every detail of the incident for future reference. As a rule, it if is not in the report, it did not happen. Another tip that I learned was the importance of dressing professionally for court appearances. At Cape Hatteras, all of the Rangers wear long sleeve shirts, ties, and class A uniform components while at court. This uniform conveys professionalism, which is appreciated by the Judge. Also, it is very important to follow the rules of the courtroom, and to speak clearly when testifying.

After my day at court, I returned to working with other park divisions for the remainder of the week. On my first morning back in the park I was fortunate enough to spend time with the Lifeguard Division. As a National Seashore, Cape Hatteras is equipped with an extensive Lifeguard program that patrols the protected swimming beaches on all three major islands (Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke). My morning was spent with the Lifeguards of Hatteras Island, whose stand is located in Buxton near the Old Lighthouse site. I began my morning with the Lifeguards by helping them set-up their equipment and mark the beach area. Next, I viewed the beach from the top of the stand, as we all waited for our 30 minute Physical Fitness rotation. Once it was my turn to "PT", I attempted to complete the standard Lifeguard morning PT session. This includes running 1.5 miles on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and then practicing with the the rescue board. After completing the first two components of this training, I was given the opportunity to work with the rescue board under the guidance of the Lifeguards. Having never use a surf/paddle board, I was eager to try my luck at paddle boarding in the ocean! After learning how to mount the board, I practiced moving through the water while lying on my stomach. Next, I made the transition to a paddle boarding position, with only my knees contacting the board. After several falls and miscues, I was able to successfully move from lying flat on my stomach, to paddling while seated on my knees. This was a awesome experience that one can only get at a park like Cape Hatteras!

After spending my morning with the Lifeguard crew, I moved over to the ORV Permit Office for the remainder of the day. Since this was my second stint with the ORV crew, I felt more conformable and I was able to assist the Rangers in their duties. During the middle of my shift at the ORV Office , Ranger Krebs stopped by to let me know that the park pilot had agreed to take me on a flyover of the park during the next day!

Cape Hatteras is very unique in the fact that they have a park pilot on the Law Enforcement staff. Since there are multiple airports in the park, the pilot is able to assist Rangers in patrol and can also help with wildlife studies and other park management duties. For my flyover, I traveled to the parks airplane hanger, where I met with the park pilot. Shortly after arriving at the airport, we were taxiing to the runway and taking-off! On this flyover, we started at the northern end of the Seashore, and flew south to the Hatteras Inlet. On the day of my flight, the water was extremely calm and clear, allowing us to see many schools of fish, a shipwreck, and even sharks swimming in the water. This was an amazing experience, and it was great to see the park fro m the air! From the view of the plane, you can truly see that the Outer Banks are only a small set of barrier islands that are threatened by the wind and waters of the Atlantic.

After my flyover, I returned to Hatteras Island where I reported to the Frisco Campground. The Frisco Campground is one of Hatteras District's two campgrounds, offering primitive camping to park visitors. Visitor Use Assistants (VUA's), staff the campground during the day in order to take payments from campers and sign visitors into the campground. During my two days at the campground, I learned how the check-in/out process works, and I was able to assist the VUA's in managing the area. This included patrolling the campground via golf cart, and cleaning the campsites once visitors signed out. After my time at the campground, I had a better understanding of the rules and operating procedures of the campground, which will help me going forward.

Once I concluded my time at the Frisco Campground, I returned to the ORV Permit Office to close out my week. On this Saturday, the ORV Office was slightly busier then my previous days there, which allowed me to really get a full taste of the position. I really enjoyed working with the other Rangers at the ORV Office, and I was able to use their tips to help talk to visitors and make the permit process as easy as possible.

Thank you for reading this week's blog! Check-back soon for additional blogs from Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

Jay Copper

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