Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Week 3 - Maintenance

My third week at COLO was spent with the maintenance staff at the Yorktown side of the park. Throughout the week I took place in whatever they were doing for the day and essentially functioned as a seasonal maintenance employee. Through actually participating in all of the tasks maintenance is assigned to do I feel that I not only gained an understanding of the role they play but actively experienced the challenging work that goes into keeping COLO running smoothly.

My very smelly ride on Monday
On my first day with maintenance I walked into their common room bright and early at 6 AM. I took a seat and introduced myself to everyone else in the room. A few minutes later the maintenance supervisor came in and assigned everyone their tasks for the day. I was assigned to ride along with Frank who would be manning the trash truck. This may sound like I drew the short stick but this ended up being one of the more enjoyable tasks I did throughout the week. The job consists of riding around in an air conditioned truck to the various trash bins around the visitor center and then throughout the Colonial Parkway and emptying them. You also pick up any litter you find throughout the park. You get gloves, a metal grabber to pick up trash, and a bottle of hand-sanitizer in the truck. This might not make being a trash man sound any more enticing for you but for me this job was a sweet gig. And I left that day feeling good about the fact that I had made the park a better place to be for both visitors and wildlife.

Tamping an asphalt patch on the parkway

I also learned a bit about the visitors of COLO. At one particular pullout on the parkway there were three trash bins and a heap of garbage piled up around them. Frank and I evaluated the mess and starting chipping away at the bags around the trashcans. After that was taken care of we began emptying the trash bins only to realize that one of them had been left completely empty. And I thought I’d only be frustrated with visitors during my time with the law enforcement rangers.

I’m going to skip over Tuesday for now as I actually didn’t spend it with maintenance. On Wednesday I arrived again at 6 AM and was assigned along with a few others to take on the daunting task of weed-whacking the steep banks next to the entrance of the parkway tunnel. The other guys warned me this was one of the more challenging tasks they have to do but we took the challenge head on and got it done before lunch. We were then rewarded for our efforts by being given the very dusty and very tedious task of weed-whacking around the headstones at the Yorktown National Cemetery.

Got to keep the mowers spick and span
For the rest of the week I spent my time doing various tasks such as patching holes in the parkway, collecting blockades and reopening the tunnel (which had been closed for maintenance on the lights within), following a detour path and removing the signs, and on that rainy Friday doing some equipment maintenance and cleaning.

But we can’t forget about Tuesday. On Tuesday I took a break from maintenance and joined three of the law enforcement rangers on their day in court. As the law-abiding citizen I am I’ve never been in a courthouse before so the experience was a first for me. Watching the events and rulings during the cases being presented that day was also a first for me. Besides the many episodes of Law and Order I’ve seen I really had no idea how this part of the criminal justice system operates. It was definitely a worthwhile experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend. Week three was definitely a success and I’m eager to move on to interpretation and start learning the history behind this national historical park.

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