Sunday, June 4, 2017

Week One at the C&O Canal

It has certainly been an eventful first week at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  I arrived to my quarters above the ranger station at the Ferry Hill visitor center last Sunday, where I met my supervisor and former Proranger Moe Greene.  I hit the ground running with Ranger Greene and the visitor and resource protection division on Monday, getting a tour of the park and checking fishing licenses along the way.  Through the combined efforts of Ranger Greene and Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof, I have now covered about 85 miles of the 184.5 miles of the park, from Great Falls to Williamsport.  On Tuesday I got to meet many of the other employees at the park's headquarters in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Wednesday was when the action really started.  Moe and I were checking out the neighboring National Park of Harpers Ferry and catching up with another former Proranger, Jordan Keiffer, when we received a call about an intoxicated person on the canal tow path potentially harassing visitors.  Upon arrival we took a statement from a witness and then contacted the man.  It turned out he had not really been harassing anyone, just drinking alcohol in the park, and was very cooperative with us.

After returning to the ranger station we checked out an illegal campsite hidden in the woods between the tow path and the Potomac river that had apparently been there for weeks.  The next day, Thursday morning, I accompanied five rangers to the campsite, where there were two men staying.  They too were quite cooperative and were instructed to remove all of their trash and belongings from the park.

On Saturday I helped out at a fishing derby to try and remove snakeheads from the canal, an invasive and injurious species of fish.  The derby was hosted at the canal in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Though only one actual snakehead was caught, the event was a hit, with hundreds of people coming out to fish and awareness being raised.  I even got some free dinner out of it!

If there was one theme to be pulled from this week, I think it would have to be interagency cooperation/coordination.  While we were contacting the man on the tow path, Brunswick Police also responded.  They were familiar with the man, gave us some beneficial information, and helped manage the situation.

The teamwork between the three different agencies for the Snakehead Derby ensured that the event ran smoothly and was both educational and enjoyable for all.  It included filet demonstrations and Gyotaku, the Japanese art of using fish to make prints (the Northern Snakehead is native to Asia).

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