Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sleeping Bear, Week 11

Stopped on my beach run to take a picture of the tide's affect on the sand.

This will be a quick post, only because I worked three days in between my weekends off.

8/4- Today was the start of my time switching between the divisions on the mainland. Today I had the chance to work with the fees division. I started my day at 7:30AM at DH Day campground, the large and very popular campground in the northern section of the park. I met with the Ranger who was working the morning shift and one of the campground volunteers and discussed their morning activities. They not only are in charge of handling the campground fees, but also opening and closing the campground information station, and make regular patrols through the sites. We checked over the campground availability and then opened up the office to the large line of incoming campers. Since DH Day is a walk-in campground, you cannot reserve sites ahead of time. In the summer months, the campground is always near full, so the line for hopeful campers is very long and they arrive very early in the morning to be first in line. Luckily, we had room for everyone who came that day and did not have to turn anyone down. I watched as the Ranger gave camper orientation (which was very similar to my orientation on South Manitou Island) and registered all of the campers, which was also a similar process that I had done.

After the morning rush at the campground, one of the fee supervisors, Dennis Hauck, picked me up from the campground and took me along for his regular rounds through the park. One of his main jobs is making sure that all of the payment slips for park passes are stocked at the different trail heads and beach accesses throughout the park. Since we have many roads that lead into the park, it would be impossible to have one entry gate where visitors can pay their park fee. Park passes are mandatory if you recreate in the park, and passes are available at many locations throughout the park, including these areas that we checked today.
Once we knew the boxes were full of payment slips, we headed over to the Dune Climb so Dennis could cover the shift of one of his fee collectors who called out sick. This was a great chance for me to see how the fee collectors interact with the public, answer questions, and handle the issuing of park passes. At one point, Dennis had to leave the Dune Climb, so we closed the second entry lane to individuals who did not already have park passes, and only let those who did have park passes enter through that lane. While he was gone, Dennis sent me out to walk along the cars, asking if the visitors had park passes or not, and if they did, I would let them through the closed lane to shorten the line of waiting cars. All others had to pay their fee at the open lane. This was a great chance for me to answer visitor questions and handle a large amount of vehicles coming into one location. Once Dennis returned, we finished out our day in the booth collecting fees. Dennis allowed me to operate the computers that keep track of how much money is coming into the booth and the register. Today was a great experience and gave me a further understanding of the fees operation. My last park, UPDE, did not have fees, so this was all new to me.
Working the fee booth at the Dune Climb.
8/5- I started out my day at 8:00AM with administration, speaking with Daniel Krieber, Sleeping Bear Administrative Officer, about the administrative team. He told me all about the individuals who work at SLBE and their roles and responsibilities within the park. It was nice to finally put faces to names! He discussed his daily responsibilities and his many roles at the park. Daniel is a major contributor to handling the park’s budget, and he manages the vehicle fleet and all of the Park Service housing within the park. We talked about the recent budget cuts and the cuts that the park is also planning for in the next fiscal year. Daniel was a wealth of knowledge about the parks administrative operation, and it was great to speak with him; I learned quite a bit within only a couple hours.

I stayed with admin for only a few hours and then took a few hours off before going back into work to finish out my day with a ride-along. Ranger Seybert and I went out on an evening shift. Within an hour of being on duty, we received a dispatch call from the Dune Climb about a little girl who could not find her family. This type of call is very common at the Dune Climb because it is a very large hill with many people concentrated in one area. The climb is also fun for kids, and they are hard to keep track of. This particular case, however, was a bit more serious. We arrived thinking that we only had to find the parents of this one girl (which is a lot better than having to find the kid) but it turned into much more than that. After getting as much information as we could out of the 4 year old girl and the reporting party, we realized that we were also looking for the girl’s two brothers. Since the girl was technically under Ranger Seybert’s custody, I had to go climb up to the top of the Dune to look out for the two boys who had climbed to the top, while Ranger Seybert and Ranger Hauck (who arrived on scene to help out) checked vehicles in the parking lot that fit the description that we got from the little girl. About a half hour into the search, they located the mother in her vehicle and got more information from her. After speaking to her, the Rangers realized that we were now not only looking for the two boys, but another sibling and their cousin, all of whom were on the dune somewhere. The Rangers radioed a description of the boys to me and I kept an eye out at the top of the dune. Thankfully, one of the visitors that I had spoken to previously about the two boys had also stayed on top of the dune further away from me, and located three of the children. He dialed 911, who contacted the park and told me where to find the visitor. I met up with the group at the top and got more information on the last child who was still out there. They told me that the boy probably took the trail towards Lake Michigan and was on his own. I instructed them to head down to the bottom of the dune where Rangers and their family would meet them while I went looking for the last child. As I was hiking along the trail, I spoke with several different groups about a young boy who had been picked up by two women further down the trail. Thankfully, I did not have to go far and located the two women and the boy, who were heading back to the parking lot. I thanked the two women for helping the boy out, and brought him back down to the parking lot, telling him about the importance of staying with your group and what to do if you get lost.  Ranger Seybert spoke with the mother and got testimonies from all of the reporting parties so he could do a quick write-up for the incident. Thankfully, everyone was accounted for and it was a successful SAR.

We finished out the day doing our regular patrols through the northern section of the park, checking out the beach and lake accesses and trail head parking lots. It had rained for a little before our shift began, so there weren’t too many people out enjoying the park, causing a somewhat slow day. At one of the trail head parking lots, we found a car that had a heavy odor of marijuana and decided to hike the trail to see if we could locate the party, hopefully catching them in the act. We found the group, but they did not show any signs of abusing and we could not prove that they had it. There was nothing in plain view in the car nor on their persons, so we let the group go on their way.

Today was another one of those days where you don’t know what you will be getting into for the day. I woke up thinking that I would be spending my entire day with administration, but got to be a part of a SAR at the Dune Climb and got some ride-along time in as well. Just one of the reasons why I love this job!

8/6- Today I worked with the maintenance division. I did not know what I would be doing at the start of the day, but met the maintenance supervisor, Bob Bertschy at the Empire Maintenance shop. After setting me up with some PPE, he told me to head over to the maritime museum, where a crew who was working on the roof of one of the bathrooms was waiting for me. I headed over and spent my whole day helping the crew install the new roof, which used treated red cedar shingles from Canada. Within a few minutes, I was over my partial fear of heights and was climbing all over that roof, constantly keeping the crew stocked with new shingles so they would not have to come down to get them. The biggest challenge to installing the new shingles was their placement. The roof had a water seal under the shingles and the shingles were really only used for a cosmetic purpose. Because the shingles were cut from wood and were all different shapes and sizes, we had to hand pick the proper shingle to use for each one we laid down. If the edge of the shingle above the previous row met the edge of the one bellow it, it was not OK to use. We wanted to make sure that no two rows had edges that lined up, for draining purposes and for the overall look of the roof. With my extra help, the crew and I put down close to 30 rows of shingles, nearly completing the project in one day, which was much more than they expected. The crew will be returning tomorrow to put the final touches on the roof and then it will be operational for many years to come! Today was a great chance to meet with some of the maintenance crew and speak with them about their daily routines, views on park issues, and their experiences within the Park Service.
The roof we were working on. We started the day with only two rows completed.
How it looked at the end of the day. Those roof clamps and 2x4's are there for extra foot support, and will be removed at the end of the project.
8/7-8/8- These two days will be my last days off before heading back home. On the 7th, Don Hamilton, the Chief Resource Management at the Upper Delaware S&RR (where I worked last summer), was taking vacation in the area and came to the park for a quick visit. SLBE was Don’s first park, so it was nice for him to come back to his old stomping grounds. We took a hike through the Cottonwood Trail on the dunes and talked about my summer experience here and how things are going at UPDE. Don also spent a few seasons working on South Manitou and stayed in the same station that I did, so it was fun to compare stories and hear about how much the island has changed since his time out there. It was great to see Don and have a visitor!

Starting on the 9th, I will be working the weekend at the Port Oneida Festival, which opens up the historic farms within the park to the public for a short weekend. I’ll be finishing out my last week working a day with dispatch and doing some LE ride-alongs, so stay tuned for my last post. As always, thanks for reading!   

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