Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cuyahoga Valley NP Final Weeks

Week 12 and Final Week

Tract Trekker Meeting
I started my last full week helping one of the Rangers out with a dinner. Ranger Pugh is in charge of the Tract Trekkers- a volunteer group that hikes the park boundaries and checks the posts, and puts in post where they are missing. This is a very important and time consuming job because the park is very large and it has many different jurisdictions going through out it. You must be careful and precise and know how to deal with people who may own private land up against park land, because they sometimes get very uncomfortable with people practically in their backyard looking for exactly where the true boundary is. Also having past records of the land is very important in case there is a dispute.  A lot of hard work and time goes into the work these volunteers do, so every year Pugh organizes a potluck dinner for them. I helped set up the tables and chairs at the Hines Hill Conference Center, and I got a chance to meet many of the Tract Trekkers and talk to them and hear about their work. It truly sounds amazing and is very rewarding work. They were presented a plaque of appreciation that will get hung up at Coonrad Ranger Station. Afterwards I helped with the cleanup. The dinner went well and everyone had a great time!

I got a chance to work with Ranger Rickelman on a day that she was doing Vacant Structures Check. When Cuyahoga Valley became a park it took a lot of land that people used to live in. Some of the houses have become park buildings for administration, ranger stations, dormitories, and a variety of other types. Some were in bad condition so they were destroyed and the land restored back, others have just remained vacant. The park being large and some of these houses are in remote areas that are not easily gotten to – it is easy to go a while without seeing some. So about once a month Ranger Rickelman goes to these structures to check the condition and report if there is any new type of damage; whether it is the house in bad condition naturally or kids trashing the place. She documents and takes photographs, and also checks the entry ways to make sure they are secured. Sometimes people try living in the houses illegally (known as squatters) so it is important you do check to make sure it is secured. I got to go with Rickelman to these houses, most of which I had never seen before because I had no idea they were there! The condition of the houses ranged from some really nice ones (that I would not mind living in) to some that there is no hope anymore, and they need to just be torn down. It was a great way for me to really see more secluded areas of the park.

Litter Training!
Using the wheel
I got another chance to act as the victim in the litter while the rangers did their litter and wheel training! This time I started on the ground (I supposedly fell out of a tree) and they practiced communicating as they put me on the backboard keeping my neck and spine in place, then putting cushions and tape down to keep my head in place and cushioned, and then lifted me onto the litter and practiced attaching the wheel and walking around with it. Being familiar with how all the pieces work is important, as well as communicating to each other and being familiar with the terminology of how to switch out with someone if fatigue is set on during a carry out, or any other possible encounter that needs to be communicated.

Boston Mills
Szalay's Farm
In my last few days I got to encounter kayakers with opened containers, a found wallet and a found wedding ring (separately), ran a tag on my own, found kids shooting off explosives and having alcohol (cited for the alcohol, warning for explosives and I got to watch some more SFSTs), another car lock out, disabled vehicle, more fishing license checks, hike patrols, a vehicle left past dusk and the registered owner could not be located or contacted, and probably a whole deal more of things I am forgetting to mention. At this park that is a normal amount, which is something I very much enjoy, is that there is always something going on and it is always unpredictable and different.

     One thing that was quite unique and new to me was the White-tailed Deer Management Plan Public Comment Meeting. For many years the White-tailed deer population has been studied along with the population of native plants and other animals. With the given habitat the land can handle about 20 deer per acre. At this moment there are about 40 deer per acre- double the amount! It used to be higher (about 50 deer per acre) but has since gone down because the Metro Parks have implemented some raffled hunting. Cuyahoga Valley in an effort to maintain the wildlife has decided to take some action. Since it is a National Park, legally there can be no hunting. They have looked at a series of different solutions, and feel the most effective and cost efficient is for lethal actions- which involves sharpshooting. The public has 60 days to review the plans and comment and question online or by mailing in. Two public meetings were set up to present the plan and allow people to comment. Law Enforcement Rangers were scheduled to be at these meetings to make sure nothing got out of hand and to protect the rights of citizens. I was excited to be able to go to observe to see how it all worked. We had an area coned off for First Amendment rights (people protesting) and signs up about no firearms, and we can check any bag or other type of parcel. The evening meeting I was able to observe turns out did not have a lot of people show up. Since Metro parks already have hunting, perhaps the people don’t see our plan as anything new. There were some people who were questioning and commenting at the meeting so it was interesting to see how it is handled. Everything else went smooth and it is very exciting to see the start of this management plan.

Riding the Train!
Train Engine
I also got the chance to (last minute) ride the train! The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is very known around here. Many visitors enjoy using it for Bike-aboard, just to enjoy the scenery, getting back to their vehicle after a long hike or run, or any other special events they do on the train (including Thomas, Polar Express, Wine nights, Beer nights, and a whole handful of other activities they do). I have heard the train whistling through the valley many times, and have been stuck waiting for it to pass many times, so I had no get on the train at least once before my time here was done. The staff at CVSR is very friendly and nice, and they even let me ride in the engine with them! It was very cool, I have never been up at the engine, and I got that chance! To get to where the engineer is, you must walk past the actual engine, which on the one end it was large and very hot! I enjoyed viewing the park from a different angle, and waving to all the people as we rode by! It was a unique experience, so thank you CVSR!
Baltimore & Ohio 
     I want to thank everyone at Cuyahoga Valley for giving me a truly unique and experience filled summer. I did so much more than I expected and learned more than I could have known possible. Everyone helped me out so much and really made me feel welcome and part of the team. The summer went by too fast because I was busy learning and having fun, and getting into all sorts of new and different experiences. I did not realize how cool Ohio could be, because it is always the people that make the place. I miss Cuyahoga already! 
Ranger Stell and I 
Thank you to family and friends who have been supporting me this whole time, and thank you to the ProRangers for your support as well! I am proud of us all!

     -Jackie Innella

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