Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Weedwacking under cannons

I spent my fourth week of my internship at Gettysburg with the maintenance division. With my time in administration and interpretation, I knew more about the park’s history, its programs, and its internal operations. This week, I would get to see what it really takes to keep the park operating. On my first day I split my time among several people in the maintenance office. First, I spent my time with the division chief, Mark Pratt, and sat in on a conference call about an energy audit of the park. Listening in on the call gave me a new perspective – up to this point I had not put much thought into that side of park operations. After the call ended, I left with Bill Higgins, the park’s safety officer. Bill showed me the fire suppression systems in several buildings and explained their purpose and function to me. Then, we drove over to Eisenhower Historic Site to help out with a broken electric gate. The mechanism had stopped working, and with it, a new obstacle presented itself to the Eisenhower shuttle. Thankfully, the gate was manually opened, but new parts would need to be machined before it could be fixed.
disassembled gate opener
I ended my first day back in the office with Angel DeJesus, the program coordinator, and I learned about how the park pursues permits, projects, and applies for additional funding within the Department of the Interior and I also got the chance to see some of the newly proposed park projects.

On Tuesday I started my work with maintenance in earnest by spending the day with the trim crew. I was tasked with weekwacking, and trimmed wherever the larger mowers could not reach, be it around sidewalks, along roads and fence lines, around monuments, and even under cannon! At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, most of the fields would have been kept clear by farmers and grazing farm animals. Today, almost all of it must be mowed, something I did not fully appreciate until I helped the trim crew in their efforts. The following day, I worked with the adoption crew, as they are known. Many people volunteer their time at Gettysburg by “adopting” and maintaining certain parts of the park and it’s the adoption crew’s job to help coordinate this volunteer effort by supplying tools and equipment. We spent much of the day driving throughout the park picking up and dropping off tools for various volunteer groups, but we also collected trash from park housing, picnic areas, and offices.
I spent the next two days with the carpentry crew. Unfortunately, it was raining, so roofing and more serious carpentry work was not an option. Regardless, there was other work to be done, and I helped take down scaffolding around the Codori House. 

Having already taken down scaffolding, I got my try at building some, and built at my home for the summer, Spangler house.

On my second day with the carpentry crew I helped do more work on the Codori House and I painted newly installed siding and did some sanding and caulking on the railings.

My first week in maintenance taught me a great deal about the nature of the work that goes into keeping Gettysburg not only operational but well-kept as well. While the interpretation division might be the face of the park for the public, I learned this week that maintenance are its real caretakers and stewards. The work that they do on a continual basis might not be immediately noticeable, but it is certainly essential. So while a visitor may not pick up on the fact that you mowed the grass under a cannon in the park, he or she would probably notice if the grass around cannon was overgrown, and likely would not hesitate to say so. 

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