Thursday, April 1, 2010

Manatee Mania

Today started out nicely and calmly.  My coworker was back from his days off and I was glad to have the assistance.  We were able to alternately take the calls that came in through the day for various things and also alternate with the odd ball calls when something unusual was happening in the park.
Once everyone had their assignments for the day, I retreated to the office to try to make some progress on some projects that I have been working on.  I was able to finish up a small hand-out for campers to be given out at the ranger station.  We are participating in a trial period to evaluate the possibility of Wi-Fi in our campground.  The hand-out that I made gave visitors directions to log onto the connection and provided them with a web address for a survey that we put together to evaluate the system.  I got the hand-outs cut out and taken to the ranger station. 
Back at the office, I talked with my coworker and we caught each other up on what we have been working on and upcoming projects.  I am getting better at continuing a conversation through several interruptions.  When we were done talking, I started reading through our emergency action plans.  It is time to update the plan, so I am keeping an eye out for things that need to be changed, but I am also learning a lot.  The emergency action plan details facilities, property locations, and park areas in list format.  Its nice to see the big picture on paper.  I marked some items that need updating, but I didn't get all the way through it.  It was getting to be lunch time and I was ready for a break.  I headed to the ranger station to put in my secret code to allow a procedure on the computer before heading home.  While I was there, they got a call that there was a manatee near the boat rental area.  The few rangers on duty were busy, so I headed down to check it out.  Some park staff suspected that this report may be an April Fool's Day prank because manatee sightings are rare at this park.  There are shallow places in the river that keep them from coming to our location usually, but the water is high right now.  When I got to the canoe beach, one of the concessionaires took me out in a canoe to see the manatee.  It was young and very happily munching on some Hydrilla which is an invasive, exotic water plant.  We definitely wanted to encourage that manatee to eat!

The manatee was in a great area.  It was out of the swim area, in our lagoon between the spring and the river.  Boats with motors are not allowed in that area and swimming is not allowed in that area, so the manatee was safe from human disruption.  I asked the concessionaire to keep an eye on canoers to make sure that no one was bothering the manatee.
I finally made it home for lunch and then headed back to the office to work with a ranger who needed to try out a connection for an online training.  We had some technical difficulties, but eventually got the information that we needed.  After that, I began to wrap things up in the office.  I actually believed that I might be able to leave a little early today.  Just as I was having those thoughts, we heard a report of motor boats in the lagoon near the manatee.  My coworker headed out to handle that matter.  Soon after that, there was another call about some stranded hikers.  They had tried to hike out to one of our backpacking primitive sites last night.  They had a rough time and only half of their party was able to make it back to their car today to get help.  We of course, do not want to encourage people to call the rangers for rides whenever they want, however, the people told me that their friends were not doing very well.  I drove out with them to find their friends.  I found a lot of mud puddles out on the interior roads and my clean, white truck is covered in mud.  The exhausted campers were very grateful and promised that they learned a lot and would plan better next time.
As I was driving the campers back to their vehicle, my coworker called to say that the manatee had entered the spring area.  We had to get all of the swimmers out of the water to keep them from bothering the manatee.  I arrived to help a little late.  Everyone was out of the water and gathered at the water's edge to watch the manatee.  There were a few people who were upset that they couldn't swim, but most of the visitors were excited to see a manatee.  While we kept an eye on the situation, we helped the late ranger pick up garbage in the spring area and answered visitor questions.  It wasn't long before the manatee decided that there were no tasty plants to eat in the spring area and it began to swim back to the lagoon.  We were almost trampled by the herd of people running to the other side of the spring to watch it swim away.  When we gave the all clear for people to return to the water, I headed home.  It was a good day and a busy day.  I might get the hang of this yet.

Thought of the Day #84
The variation in people who visit parks is always interesting to me.  Many of the people who come to Wekiwa are excited about the possibility of bear sightings.  Like me, there are people who ask when and where they might see one and if they have been sighted lately, in the hopes of catching a rare glimpse of a bear.  There are other people that hear about bears in the park and think that they will be waiting by the water to eat their children.  They need reassurance just to come in the gate.  At some point during my first week here, I was flagged down on the park drive by another vehicle.  The woman inside asked me if we had Fox Squirrels in the park because she thought she had just seen one for the first time.  She was so excited, she could hardly get out what she was trying to say.  All I could do was smile because I had a very similar reaction in this very same park at Ranger Academy when I saw my first Fox Squirrel.  Other people come in to swim at the community pool (aka the spring) and will tolerate all the naturey stuff around them.  We are here to serve all of those people.  The nature lovers and the nature-phobes and everyone in between.  It can definitely be difficult to make everyone happy!

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