Thursday, March 11, 2010
March In Our National Parks
March is when most National Parks start to swing into full gear preparing for the coming visitor season. Even though the ground may still be covered with snow and ice and roads closed, employees in the parks have lots of work to do on facilities and staffing to be ready for busy spring visitation. And this spring promises to be a busy one considering the epidemic of cabin fever in the East and the promise of a well watered wildflower bloom.
Even though the fiscal year officially starts in October, it is this time of year that field offices get a better picture of what their operating budgets will be for the season. In some years we were not informed of our bottom line for funds until June. Supervisors should have received their registers of job applicants from those who applied back in January to work this coming summer. So the laborious assignment of completing the hiring of seasonal staffs is in full swing. This process keeps supervisors in offices glued to the phones making contacts, checking availability, and eventually making offers. So if you applied for a National Park Service seasonal position, stay by the phone or in reach of one.
As the weather starts to break Park Rangers and maintenance staff are able to get out to facilities and roads to assess what damage there may be to park infrastructure. The most common damage found is from fallen trees and limbs. Many times roads may be blocked or structures will have roof damage. This can result in planning for minor cleanups to major repair projects. Under the ground and harder to locate there may be water lines and sewage systems cracked due to age by the shifting of earth and rock from the freezing and thawing of ice. Leaks in water systems may not be found until they are activated just days before facilities are opened for the visitor season.
Another important work force will be out this month. Volunteers who maintain trail systems through the region will be scouting and monitoring for damage on the Appalachian and Mountains to Sea Trails among many others. These volunteers spend thousands of hours each year clearing, marking, maintaining, and building trails for the public to enjoy.
A lot of work begins now so you can enjoy our National Parks later this spring.