Saturday, July 29, 2017

Resources (Mischief) Managed

There is only one week left in my first Proranger internship.  I don't quite understand where the time goes, but luckily I have another one to look forward to next summer.  It may be a little premature, but following in the wise teachings of Dr. Seuss, I won't cry because it is over but smile because it happened.  And there was a lot to smile about this past week with Resource Management.

Monday really spanned a wide array of park service experiences.  First, I spent some time chatting with Mark, the park's cartographer.  He showed me some historic maps and some of the research tools at his disposal for accessing them in order to more accurately determine the parks boundaries.  With such a uniquely shaped park, that went from canal ownership into receivership by the B&O railroad, then purchased by the United States before becoming a monument, then a park, and with all manner of historic rights of way, easements, and private property inholdings, its borders are very much undefined.  This presents a great challenge to Mark, who at the time was working on maps of the Georgetown section of the park in anticipation of the revitalization.

I then attended three meetings in a row.  There was the all employee meeting, where the superintendent and the division chiefs brief everyone available in the park about what has been going on recently, deadlines, the progress of projects, and what they are looking to accomplish next.  After that, I sat in on a meeting with representatives of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission regarding a new water intake plant in the Potomac, a project that has been in the works for many years.  And last but not least, I sat in on the resource management division meeting, pretty similar to the all employee meeting, but specific to the division. After the meeting, we had some pizza in honor of one of the interns who had gotten a job and was leaving the park.  

Then another intern, the parks resident cave specialist, took me to check out some caves formed in the limestone surrounding the Potomac.

 On Tuesday, I joined a group of resource interns on a journey to look for an endangered plant called Harperella that lives in riparian areas and shoals in the Potomac.

 After several ours and few different locations, the mysterious Harperella was located, a good sign for the potomac river ecosystem, often dominated by invasive species.  Unfortunately, I did not take a Picture of the Harperella, but it looks like a much smaller Queen Anne's Lace.

My boots begin to fill up with water
The team takes a break to skip some rocks
Lunch time

On Wednesday, I was traded out of Resources in order to spend a day in the park's dispatch center, which also happens to be the communicates center for the entire National Capital Region.  Mike, a long time dispatcher, showed me his responsibilities during a day in the life.  We had a lot of false building alarms due to power outages, maintenance, and employees, as well as many calls about a Great Blue Heron with fishing line around its beak.  Mike regaled me with many stories as he and another dispatcher, Allen, monitored the radio communication for the entire region and assisted the rangers when needed.

Justin inspects a dry dock for canal boats

On Thursday, I went out with Justin, the park's Archaeologist.  We visited a handful of known archaeological sites, modern and prehistoric, looking for any human disturbances or previously undiscovered artifacts.  We visited a Civil War fort, several locks and lock houses, and several fields owned by the park currently under agricultural leases.

A field under agricultural production

There was no evidence of relic hunters, though it was clear people had been to some of the sites more recently than the Native Americans, canal workers, and Civil War soldiers who created them.  At the fort, I found a piece of glass likely left there by civil war soldiers.  In one of the agricultural fields, a prehistoric site, we found numerous examples of chert flakes, byproducts of the process of making stone points and arrowheads.  This was pretty exciting for me; as a child I always wanted to be a paleontologist.  This wasn't quite the same as digging up dinosaur bones, but its about as close as you can get.

Other Justin, the cave specialist intern, accompanied us on our archaeological inspections, and showed us a couple more pretty sweet caves.  The smaller Cave, pictured above, was also an archaeological site, as it had a carving in it that claimed to be from 1862.  You just had to brave the spiders and centipedes to check it out.

The second cave was much larger, and thankfully free of spiders.  This one contained more evidence of human tampering, unfortunately in the forms of graffiti and beer cans.  It also had this pretty crazy passage that extended for several hundred feet.  It was small enough that you had to crawl on your hands and knees, but big enough so that I could turn around in it and not get freaked out.  Justin crawled down it in the name of science, to monitor the water level at the far end where the tunnel was no longer navigable.  I crawled down it because you can't visit a cave with a cool tunnel that other people are crawling through and not crawl through yourself.

Justin, barely visible at the far end of the tunnel

On Friday, I was back with my pals in the Youth Conservation Corps.  We attempted to clear a large retaining wall of vegetation, but we were rained out.  So we returned to headquarters where we replaced some shelving in the parks archival storage room.

All in all, it was a pretty cool week, and really reminded me of some of the reasons I have chosen this path and this vocation. Oh and I also went bowling one day this week!

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