Saturday, July 8, 2017

A National Park Trifecta: A visit to Colonial National Historical Park

Colonial National Historical Park (COLO) is a national park trifecta: the site of the Jamestown Settlement, the site of the Battle of Yorktown, and the scenic Colonial Parkway.  According to many dictionaries, a trifecta is generally defined as any set or combination of three successful outcomes.  COLO fits this definition well.  Allow me to share some of the memorable moments during a recent visit to COLO.  If you have never been to COLO, or haven’t been there recently, you should plan to and (re)acquaint yourself with America’s beginnings, from an English colony in 1607 to an independent nation in 1781, as well as the public lands & resources in between.  Protecting places like COLO ensures that Americans and international visitors can learn from these historical “laboratories” now and into the future.

Photo #1: Our visit began (where else?) at the Ranger’s station where we met with ProRanger Samuel “Sam” Vecchione.

Photo #2: Sam and U.S. Park Ranger Wayne Lamb (a ProRanger alumnus) pause to smile outside of the Ranger’s station on a beautiful, sunny day in June.  Ranger Lamb is Sam’s internship supervisor for the summer and is responsible for charting Sam’s time in each park division (e.g., resource management, maintenance, interpretation, administration, etc.) and for evaluating Sam’s progress by means of the ProRanger Program Taskbook.

Photo #3: Assistant Superintendent & Chief Ranger Steven Williams and Sam shaking hands after Sam presents a plaque on behalf of Temple University acknowledging COLO as a 2017 partner park.   Since the inception of the Temple University-National Park Service partnership, Assistant Superintendent Williams has been a long-time supporter of the ProRanger Program.  His leadership and contributions span from the program’s initial design and implementation to today as he advocates about the benefits of hiring a ProRanger Program graduate.

Photo #4:  Since 2010, COLO has proudly hosted Temple University students during their summer internships, and for very good reasons.  Given the breadth and depth of experiences students have gained while interning at COLO, program staff are confident that current (and future) Temple students will continue benefit from COLO’s strong leadership and true partnership.

Photo #5: Picture Yorktown Battlefield: here, in the fall of 1781, General George Washington, with allied American and French forces, defeated General Cornwallis’ Army.  It was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and a turning point for both the British and the Allied Armies.  Independence, for the original colonies, was nigh.   When you really think about the significance of the battle, one can appreciate why it should be preserved and protected.  As we ponder the meaning, Sam, Supervisory Ranger Adrian Fernandez (ProRanger Program Manager, NPS) and I pause outside of the Yorktown Visitor Center for a photo before we head inside.

Photos #6-7: Inside the Visitor Center, as NPS staff are busy assisting and educating visitors, Sam explains the theater has been recently refurbished and other improvements made to the center.

Photos #8-9:  Sam describes the historical significance of the Moore House to Ranger Fernandez and Dr. Vicki McGarvey (ProRanger Program Director, TU).  He explained this house is the location is where the articles of capitulation (surrender terms) took place when the British surrendered to the Allied forces.  The terms deprived the British army the “full honors of war” in reprisal for a similar action imposed by the British on Americans earlier in Charlestown, SC.  Essentially, the surrendering army had to furl their regimental flags, and turn over other articles and weapons.  Although the Moore House suffered extensive damage during the civil war and fell into a state of disrepair, the NPS restored it in the 1930s, over one-hundred fifty years after the articles of capitulation were signed.

Photo #10:  Taking a break for lunch, program staff ask Sam what he has learned about visitor and resource protection at COLO.  As Sam begins to describe them, he pulls out his copy of the Park Ranger’s Guide to the Federal Criminal Code.  This pocket guide is issued during the ProRanger Professional Seminar course to each student for use during the class and both summer internships.  A familiarization of 36 CFR as well as a Superintendent’s Compendium and a Jurisdictional Inventory are conducted by Ranger Fernandez in class as well.

Photos #11-12:  Picture Colonial Parkway: a twenty-three-mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown.  Absolutely scenic, well-managed and pleasant to drive.  The posted speed limit varies, but in most stretches of the highway it is 45 mph.  During the drive from Yorktown to Jamestown, Sam explains that one law enforcement issue that COLO faces is traffic control.  With more residential and commercial development occurring in the Williamsburg/Colonial NHP area, more strain has been placed on the Colonial Parkway.  Use of the parkway, explains Sam, has shifted from park visitors to commuter traffic.  As a result, the Parkway increasingly experiences traffic congestion, speeding motorists, DUI’s, and occasionally vehicle collisions.  Protecting visitors, motorists and ensuring safe travel along the Parkway is an ongoing challenge for NPS law enforcement rangers here.

Photos #13-14-15: Picture Jamestown Settlement: an immersion of America’s first permanent English colony with extensive displays, ranger-led programs, archeological activity, and exhibits.  Jamestown is an active “laboratory” for learning about the first colony, successive settlements, and even early Jamestown “suburbs” along the James River.  Sam interprets the layout of the settlements and points out structures and “ruins” including the “Ambler House,” which was built in 1750 by the Ambler family and survived being burned in two wars, but was finally abandoned in the late 1890s after a third fire.

Photo #16: As the tour of the Jamestown settlement continues, Sam, Ranger Fernandez, and Mr. Anthony J. Luongo (Director-Temple University SLETP and ProRanger Program Associate Director) are effortlessly entertained at the sight of a ferry carrying passengers along the James River.  And, yes, there was a ferry…

Photos #17-18: Sam’s favorite place at COLO?  It’s Black Point along the edge of Jamestown Island, a small, quiet beach area where one can overlook the James River.  The group was captivated by the peaceful, tranquil setting and spied a small crab making its way between some rocks.

Photo #19: After concluding the visit to Jamestown, the group heads back to Yorktown to join Dr. Cheryl Irons’ internship class.  Leading the class is Dr. Irons, a faculty member of the Temple University Department of Criminal Justice and the CJ Internship Coordinator.  The two-credit class is an important component of the ProRanger Certificate in National Park Service Management and is conducted remotely on a biweekly basis.  Dr. Irons’ course is designed so that students can connect to one another via WebEx from their respective parks and discuss their internship experiences and learning.  Class assignments include: conducting interviews with park staff and supervisors, researching issues of visitor/resource protection in park-specific contexts, and applying legal concepts such as authority and jurisdiction. 

Photo #20:  After an exciting and rewarding day at COLO, U.S. Park Rangers Timothy Oh and Wayne Lamb (ProRanger alumni and both working at COLO) join the group for a delicious dinner in Williamsburg.  Note: shrimp & grits are decidedly the best choice.

After dinner, Rangers Lamb and Oh share valuable insight, input and observations about the ProRanger Program.  The evaluation component of the ProRanger Program relies on candid and constructive feedback from park leadership, supervisors, and students so the program can continuously improve. 

All of us would like to again thank Assistant Superintendent Steven Williams, U.S. Park Rangers Lamb and Oh, and COLO park staff for their hospitality and time during the visit.  Their efforts, professionalism, and leadership undoubtedly have shaped the positive learning environment that Sam, and hopefully many future Temple students, will experience as they pursue their soaring aspiration to become commissioned U.S. Park Rangers.

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