Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: ProRanger Jay Copper


As I begin to reflect on my summer at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, I am reminded of all of the National Park Service memories that brought me to the Outer Banks. When I arrived at Temple University in the fall of 2010 I could have never dreamed of being accepted to the ProRanger Program by semesters end. As a freshly declared Criminal Justice major, I was introduced to ProRanger by Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Cheryl Irons. From that point, I was fascinated with the NPS and the duties of a Law Enforcement Ranger and I quickly began the program’s rigorous application process. By that Thanksgiving, I had interviewed for the program, and was already filing the necessary paperwork for employment. Before long, the spring semester had begun and it was almost time to be placed in my first National Park!
Old School! My first summer at HAFE

After much anticipation, I was informed that I would be working at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia during the summer of 2011! Immediately upon my arrival at Harpers Ferry, I was reassured that the ProRanger Program was for me.  That summer, I experienced more that I could have ever imagined. The staff at Harpers Ferry treated ProRanger Mark Clarke and myself like family, and our experiences taught me priceless lessons and information. A few of the highlights that summer, included working the Capital Fourth Concert in Washington D.C., meeting National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and speaking to the community at Anacostia Park.

After a successful first summer, I was excited to start my second summer in the ProRanger Program. When the new placements were announced, I was thrilled to see that I was placed at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. A natural progression from Harpers Ferry, the Battle of Antietam was fought just two days after the 1862 Harpers Ferry Battle. This summer presented even more new experiences and great lessons from the staff at Antietam. As a small park, Antietam has a very close nit staff that enjoys working together. During my summer in Sharpsburg, I was able to do everything from making “blank” cannon ammunition to polishing bronze monuments that memorialize the forces that fought at Antietam. Throw in a Memorial Day parade, the Salute to Independence, and a trip to Fort McHenry for the “Sailabration”, and you have the makings of an awesome experience!
Folding the Flag at ANTI

All of these mentioned experiences and more led to this summer’s placement at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. After being told of my placement at Cape Hatteras, I was excited to see first-hand the place that I had heard about from past ProRangers. Of course, I was sad to leave the National Capital Region and all of the people that had a hand in my first two summers, but I knew that Cape Hatteras was a great park with its own set of new experiences and challenges. In my previous placements, I worked in smaller parks that focused mainly on their historical elements. Although I experienced a fair share of law enforcement work, it was spread out among many interpretation contacts and other collateral duties. At Cape Hatteras, the many park uses require the law enforcement staff to make many law enforcement contacts and proactively patrol the parks roads and beaches. Since Cape Hatteras has jurisdiction on North Carolina Highway 12 between the villages, the Off-Road beaches in the park, and the park roads, this includes a fair amount of traffic enforcement.

July 4, 2011- Lincoln Memorial

On my first day at Cape Hatteras, the importance these traffic duties would quickly become apparent. After meeting with my Supervisor Ranger Mark Krebs, Ranger Krebs and I began our drive to park headquarters (50 miles away) to start the check-in process. Almost immediately after leaving the park, we observed a vehicle weaving between the center yellow lines and the white “ghost” line. Ranger Krebs initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, and obtained the drivers information. An investigation revealed that the driver had been on the phone as he was driving, causing him to weave on the roadway. Although this traffic stop resulted in a verbal warning, it gave me an idea of what to look for during our patrols. For the remainder of the summer, we initiated numerous traffic stops, both on the roadway and on the beach. As a result of these stops, Ranger Krebs made two arrests for Driving Under the Influence, as well as tickets ranging from underage drinking to beach driving during restricted hours. All of these stops contributed greatly to my understanding of law enforcement procedure and gave me an opportunity to observe and assist with law enforcement contacts.

Defensive Tactics Training at CAHA

Cape Hatteras from the air!

In addition to traffic enforcement, we also responded to countless calls for service throughout the park. These included incidents that ranged from stuck vehicles, snakes in the campground, and disputes between parties on the beach. During these situations, I was often allowed to assist in solving the problem, and helping the law enforcement staff control the scene. After an incident, we would often conduct a small After Action Review that would touch on the positives and negatives of the contact. This practice gave me the opportunity to improve on mistakes and gain confidence when we identified positives. I will continue to draw on these reviews as I continue in my career, and I am thankful for what they taught me.

Fire Engine driving!
One of the unique features of the ProRanger Program is the opportunity to work with each park division throughout the summer. This aspect remained true at Cape Hatteras, where I worked with the Maintenance Division, Fees/Campground/ORV, Interpretation, Lifeguards, and Resource Management. My time with these divisions included everything from giving safety talks to lighthouse climbers, clearing trails, filing ORV Permits, paddle-boarding in the ocean, marking Loggerhead Turtle nests, and later watching the baby turtles hatch and march to the ocean. Additionally, I spent time with the Cape Hatteras Fire Crew and assisted in driving their Fire Engine back from headquarters.  During my time with these divisions, I learned many things about the Park Service, and how different divisions can work together to accomplish a common goal.
ProRanger Supervisor Krebs and I at CAHA

My summer at Cape Hatteras was very satisfying and I experienced more in thirteen weeks that many experience in thirteen months. The staff at Cape Hatteras graciously assisted me in any way possible, and they were always willing to give me advice. In the future, I hope to be able to take the lessons that I have learned over the past three years and apply them during a career with the National Park Service. This coming summer, I will be attending the Seasonal Law Enforcement Program at Temple Ambler, where I will be challenged to reach new levels and set new goals.

Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers of the Parks, Regions, and Offices of the National Park Service, and to all of the staff at Temple University. Without your willingness to offer advice and your dedication to the program, none the above experiences would be possible.

Thanks for reading, 

Jay Copper

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