Saturday, March 20, 2010

Solo Saturday

The training wheels have come off and I think I did just fine.  I am the only manager on duty this weekend and even though it was a very warm day and there was a lot going on in the park, everything ran just fine.  I was nervous this morning when I looked at the schedule.  It didn't seem like there were very many people on the schedule compared to a weekday and one of those few people called out.  The park staff here is really wonderful though.  They know what they are doing and they do it well.  They have all been very helpful to me and they do a great job in the park.  They really made it easy for me today.
I felt much more park rangery today than I have since I started.  The office was quiet and there wasn't much office work for me to do.  I stayed out in the park for the majority of the day.  I took some time to get to know the main area of the park and checked in with park staff throughout the day to get to know what they do and to provide assistance as I could.  It was nice to talk to park visitors and see the sights.  It was just amazing to drive through the park this morning.  There are so many new views of the morning sun that I get to find!

I headed out to the youth camp area this morning because a volunteer event kicked off today.  The youth camp area has many many cabins (I don't have a map handy to give you the exact count) and they are being painted this week.  It is a huge task and really amazing that its all happening for free.  The paint and supplies were purchased with money donated for the project and the work is being done by volunteers.  We had one park staff member coordinating the event and she did a great job to keep everyone organized.  I walked the area this morning to see the "before."  This is the cabin that I stayed in when I was here for Ranger Academy in 2005.

I wasn't the only one walking the area.  There were some deer behind the cabins as well.  It was the day for deer sightings.  My dog had to wait to go outside this morning until a big buck and a doe decided to leave my backyard.

The mountain of paint supplies was amazing.  It was also impressive to see how quickly the work was being completed throughout the day.  I spoke to some pre-teen boys who were helping out.  They told me that they were having a lot of fun and it was WAY better than they thought it would be when their mom told them that they had to come.  All of the volunteers seemed to be having a good time.

When I made my way down to the spring area, people were just starting to arrive.  One group of people had been busy for quite a while.  They were doing a turtle survey.  They catch as many turtles as they can find with live traps and by hand, load them into a canoe and then measure, weigh, and mark them.  Its something that they have done here for several years so we are getting some great information about our turtle populations.  It was also an awesome opportunity for me to see which turtles are in this area.  Park visitors were enjoying the show as well.

I got to see another visitor to the spring.  This Blue Heron was right on the edge of the spring and staying very focused on the water.  I was surprised that it didn't seem to care about my movement on the sidewalk and even more shocked that the swimmers in the water didn't disturb it.  Herons usually startle easily and won't put up with nearby humans.  This one was apparently very focused on what he came to do... catch some fish!

Another area that I saw for the first time today was the nature center.  I was really impressed with all that they have fit into the tiny building.  In addition to the extensive collection of taxidermy pictured below, there were some live critters too.  I saw a small alligator in a very cool, kid freindly enclosure.  Children can crawl under the alligators tank and poke their head up through a glass dome to be face to face with the gator.  They also had some live corn snakes, anoles, and a young Gopher Tortise named Lucky who has a damaged leg from an encounter with a car.
Today was a great day.  I hope tomorrow is just the same.

Thought of the Day #96
At Troy Springs, I was the only ranger and I had one other part time person employed by the state.  So, technically, we had 1.5 employees at the park.  There were other people but they were volunteers or paid by another organization.  There were never more than 10 people working for Troy Springs though.  At Wekiwa, there are 25 people paid by the state on our work schedule.  There are A LOT more people working in and around the park though.  Our district office is at this location, which is an additional 10 people or so.  Then there are the volunteers, community service workers, and Americorps members as well.  It is alot to keep track of.  I am doing pretty well with names so far, but I'm sure it will take me a while to learn them all.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Red Light, Green Light

Today was even more comfortable than yesterday.  I am getting into the swing of things.  I had a moment this morning when I worried that I might not have enough to do today... that thought didn't last long.  My day was quickly filled like it has been almost everyday this week.  I can't believe that it is Friday already!
I had a few projects that I worked on today.  My manager called and asked me to write and distribute a memo to the staff, keeping them up to date on our uncoming construction project.  I also worked on getting evaluation criteria set up so that the other assistant and I can let staff know how we will be evaluating their performance throughout the year.
While I was working in the office, I had quite a few interuptions.  I think that is something that I am going to have to get accustomed to, I think it will always be that way.  Everywhere I go, I have to be sure that I am reachable.  I think I have that covered.  I carry my personal cell phone, my park issued cell phone and my park radio.  When I am in my office, there is also a landline phone with an intercom system.  Periodlically, people can buzz into my phone and talk to me from any other office in our Administration building.  Its a little strange to suddenly have a voice appearing in my office, but I am getting used to it.

The various activities that I dealt with today when I was called away from the office were usually to help the ranger station.  They needed change at one point, a safe opened at another, and I had to drop some things off there as well.  My coworker and I drove out to the youth camp to see the progress that some of the rangers are making on improving one of the cabins.  I also met with a filming crew that was interested in doing some filming in the park.  I sent them a permit to fill out to get permission for the activities that they are planning.  It was a busy day, but it was nice.  I am the only manager on duty this weekend, so I'm glad I had a day on my own to prepare.
I'm sorry that I have been very off this week with my photo taking.  I keep getting surprised when its suddenly 4:00 and I have taken no photos.  I will try to keep my camera with me in my off time so that I am showing you more of the park.  I have seen a Fox Squirrel in my yard twice now and there are always turkeys around.  I hope that in the coming weeks I will be more comfortable with my job and will be able to turn down my left-brain thinking a little and allow some more of the right-brain to function.  I am missing the creative outlet that photography allows me, but it makes me value times in my job when I get to be creative.

Thought of the Day #97
The Florida Park Service is very much a "service" oriented agency.  Visitor services are important.  Without happy visitors, we don't have money to maintain the land that we are protecting and we aren't accomplishing our mission to provide resource based recreation while preserving, interpreting, and restoring our natural and cultural resources.  I am feeling somewhat removed from the visitor service aspect of the job these days.  Now, my job is more-so to make sure that park staff have the resources that they need to provide good visitor service.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Solo Day

My job is getting better everyday.  Today, I was on my own for the most part and it felt good.  I met with park staff this morning and my other half, the other Assistant Park Manager gave out assignments for the day.  The group that was doing a prescribed burn today needed some more assistance and asked for one of the APMs.  My coworker has been here for two weeks longer than I have.  He has been doing the job of two people as a newbie like me for two weeks.  I thought he deserved a fun day, so I suggested that I stay behind to learn a little more and he could burn today.
After opening the ranger station and taking care of everything that needed to be done this morning, I headed out to take care of an assignment that I really enjoyed.  I had been tasked with getting a photo of two of our park volunteers with the product of their labor.  They had been removing miles and miles of old fencing this season and had some impressive piles to show for it.  This assignment meant that I had to venture out alone to one of the more distant park properties, Rock Springs Run.  I was glad that I was able to find my way out there, and I feel like I actually know where I was!  Once the photos were taken and I said goodbye to the volunteers, I headed to another nearby property, Katie's Landing.
Katie's Landing is an area that is being newly developed as a river access point.  There is a newer well onsite and when I started, I heard that there where some issues that needed to be addressed with the well to make sure that it is in compliance.  I am glad to have a project to work on that I am familiar with.  I feel like I learned all of the ins and outs of well maintenance at Troy and Adams Tract.

I couldn't pass up a chance to look at the river for a moment and I took some photos of an Egret (the white bird) and a Heron (the greyish-blue bird).  Can you find them?

I headed back to the office and then home for lunch when I returned to the main park.  When I came back to the office, I started working on some documentation for the well.  I was interrupted when one of the Rangers called to let me know that he had arrived with a tractor that we had wanted moved from one property to another.  I met up with him and took him back to get his vehicle from yet another property that I had visited on Monday, Pine Plantation.  The Pine Plantation is a newer piece of property to the park and it is still currently covered in planted pines.  I am used to seeing planted pines.  The long, straight rows of pines were common around Troy.  The planted pines across the road from the Pine Plantation property seem a little strange to me though.  There are citrus trees growing there also, between the pines.  Its such an odd thing to see because I am accustomed to seeing absolutely nothing growing in the planted pines aside from... pines.

When I got back from that mission, I went back to the office to work on the well stuff some more.  I was able to make some progress with only a few interruptions to orchestrate the delivery of some more road fill material and to get change for the ranger station.  Yet another day, flew right past me.  I might grow old at this job if time keeps flying the way it has been.
While I was in the office, some exciting mail came for me.  My new badges arrived.  I guess I should have been more patient and waited to tell you about them today.  Here is what my old, silver badges and new, gold badges look like.   Its official now!

Thought of the Day #98
I still haven't seen a bear, but bear accomodations are interesting to me as I drive around the areas outside of the park.  The busier roads have tall fences on each side to keep bears away from the road.  There is even one area where there is a tunnel under the road for the bears.  I am used to seeing consideration for deer on the roadways, but its such a larger scale for bears.  There are bear crossing signs everywhere!  I will have to stop to take a photo of one someday when I have time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It was great to see, every last one of my coworkers was wearing green today!  There were a few jokes about it, we wear green everyday.  It was another very full day for me.  I am starting to feel more comfortable with the duties that I have learned so far.  I really want to get out and learn the operations in the park a little better though.  I realized that since I have started, I have not even set foot in the main visitor use areas of the park.  Today was another office day.

After the morning meeting with the park staff, the other APM and I opened the Ranger Station.  I am feeling pretty good about that process now, but I do still require the use of my cheat sheet.  We had a planning meeting scheduled for 10am, so I took some time to make up a flyer for park staff and volunteers inviting everyone to a gathering at a local restraunt.  Its nice to see that the staff at this park regularly gets together to enjoy each others' company outside of work.  The planning meeting took the majority of the day.  We met with several people from the Bureau of Design and Construction, local city and county utilities, contractors and other people involved to discuss an upcoming upgrade to the campground.  The park is adding the remaining areas on septic systems to the municipal wastewater line.  This will lessen our impact on the local watershed and possibly lighten the maintenance load on the park staff.  We discussed the plan for construction, the timeline, and specific concerns about the project.
When the meeting was over, I checked in at my office and then headed out for a much overdue lunch... I didn't quite get the car door closed when I was called back into the office for a conference call.  My Park Manager and I listened to some information about a new service that will be offered in the campground.  I took lots of notes and discussed it all with my Manager after the call and then FINALLY headed home for lunch.  When I got back, I distributed the flyers that I had made in the morning and then went back to the office.  I spent the rest of the day working on making documents that related to the conference call.  I also got a lesson on answering the phone.  Now, I am looking forward to heading home for some Corned Beef and Cabbage.
Thought of the Day # 99
As an Assistant Park Manager, I wear the same uniform that I did as a Park Ranger.  I'm sure that I will wear long pants instead of shorts much more often as I am usually in a more formal setting than I was as a Ranger.  My badge and name tag will be changing color as well.  As a Ranger, my badge and name tag was silver.  My new badges have been ordered, they will be gold. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 2

Its getting a little better each day.  I am learning a little more and meeting more people.  I even ventured out alone to handle a few things and participated in my first conference call.  It will take time, but I am begining to settle in.
I met with the park staff at the shop first thing this morning.  We all chatted briefly and they headed out to work on their projects and assignments for the day.  I went to the Ranger Station and helped to open it up and get the attendant ready for the day.  I headed to the office next, and talked to the Park Manager briefly.  Before long, we had to head to the shop area again because a dump truck had arrived.  The truck was bringing crushed rock to fill an eroded area near the shop.

Unfortunately, the ground where he was unloading was full of very soft sand.  His truck got stuck.  We had to get a tractor to pull him out.  The battery was dead on the tractor.  We jumped the tractor with another truck and then pulled the dump truck out of the sand.  It took a little while, but the dump truck driver didn't get discouraged.  He apparently lives by the motto on the back of his truck.

The dump truck was going to return with a few more loads, so the other Assistant Park Manager hopped on the tractor to spread the rock before he returned so that he wouldn't get stuck again.  I decided that I would try handling a bank run and some of the paperwork procedures by myself.  It was a little bumpy, and I needed some help from other people, but I got through all of the paperwork and completed the task at hand.  I will learn it all, slowly but surely.
I went to lunch after checking back with my partner.  The rest of the day was spent in the office, working with staff as they needed things and getting organized.  We also had a conference call about an upcoming project.  Once again, the day flew by and before I knew it, it was 4:00 and I had taken two photos.  I took a minute to walk around the office building to see what I could see.  I found one tiny flower near a parking block.

I also found out where the door in my office went.  I knew it was a door to the backside of the building, but I was told that it was a difficult door to open and close and seal.  I hadn't tried to open it, but when I walked around the building, I found that I have a porch!  There is a small porch that seems as though its there just for me.  I will have to do some maintenance on that door so that I can enjoy this view.

With the poll closed, we can finally begin the 100 day count down.  I didn't get an overwhelming response to any one answer.   Many people were interested in how being a park ranger is different from being an assistant park manager, and almost as many just wanted to hear some cool things about Wekiwa.  I will mix it up a little and make everyone happy.  So, without further ado, here is the Thought of The Day # 100:
It is quite an adjustment being an APM now, instead of a park ranger.  People come to me for answers now.  I used to take my questions to my managers... there are fewer people above me to ask questions of.  I really need to learn quick!   My signature means a lot more than it used to as well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My First Day

My first day as an Assistant Park Manager at Wekiwa Springs went very quickly.  I can't believe that it is already as late as it is.   The move went pretty well.  We got packed and on the road on schedule.  We got everything unloaded at the new house late on Saturday and did the unpacking that was necessary to shower and go to bed.  In the morning, I unpacked some of the kitchen and we tried to hook up the washer and dryer.  After 2 trips to the hardware store, and the majority of the day spent exploring the surrounding area, we still needed to make another trip to the store but we called it a day.  I'm so glad that the hardware store is not 25 miles away from my home anymore.  I dug out my uniform and ironed it and headed to bed.
This morning, I went in to work and went straight into a meeting.  Good communication is important to the Park Manager, and I really appreciate that.  It is nice to have everyone on the same page, especially in a park as big as this one.  I shadowed the other Assistant Park Manager today.  I met several of my coworkers and drove around some of the outer areas of the park.  This is a VERY big park though, and one day was not enough to see everything.  I'm sure there will be a lot more exploring that I need to do.  I am looking forward to what the rest of the week will hold.  I am also looking forward to knowing what I am doing.
So here are some of the sights that I saw today.  I was so busy taking everything in, that I didn't have time to take many photos.  The first one is my new office.  Its not as big as my old office, but I don't have to share it with anyone... I just need to find the box with my frog stapler now.  I do need to make the space mine, but that will come with time.

We went to some other visitor use areas aside from the main park.  We also traveled some of the interior park roads and I saw some of the burn zones that have been burned recently with prescribed fire.  Fire is clearly a focus at this park and it looks like they do it well.  I'm glad to be a part of it.

Another area we visited was a launch area on the river.  The Wekiva River looks like a beautiful river.  I am really looking forward to a paddling day.

So that was my day in a nutshell.  I don't have internet service at the house yet, so I stayed late afterwork to blog.  Because I am blogging earlier than expected, the poll has not closed yet.  Get your vote in, its close!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some Troy Memories

To continue the idea from yesterday, here are some favorites from Troy Spring.  If you have been following this blog, you have seen lots of my favorite views.  You have even seen some of my favorite critters and plants.  There aren't many views that you haven't seen of Troy if you have followed the blog.  I picked out some that I haven't seen in a while or that I haven't gotten to show you yet.
I had to start with the spring when the water is low.  I am disappointed to leave it when its flooded.  It would be nice to see the water clear again.

You'll recognize this view of the tree just down-river from the river dock.  I just love those foggy mornings.
IMG (49)

In addition to foggy mornings, any morning light filtering through the trees was magnificent.

I didn't get to show you the Dogwood trees when they are in bloom.  They are budding, but they aren't quite blooming yet.  Here is a photo from when they were in bloom last spring.

The Suwannee River is very different from the Ichetucknee River.  The Ichetucknee is crystal clear and bright blue.  You can see everything below you.  The Suwannee is tannic and brown in color.   You can't see what is beneath you in deep water.  It is more mysterious and "wild" feeling.  The Suwannee if full of surprises and that is what makes it exciting and enjoyable.  I have great memories walking along this riverbank.