State of the Park
TO: Friends of Bandelier
FROM: Jason Lott, Superintendent,
STATE OF THE PARK
Well, the story for Bandelier for 2009, was, and continues to be for 2010, change.
We've seen a significant transition with our staff, particularly with our Management Team.
Except for our Fire Management Officer Gary Kemp, staff are all under two years of service at the Monument. With all of these new staff come a pulse of new ideas, new energy, and new directions!
Changes within the staff have included myself following Brad Traver as Superintendent, who is now working in the Southern Arizona Support Office. Tom and Beth Betts, recently from Wrangles-St. Elias in Alaska, are our new Chief Ranger and Personnel Assistant. Len Williams, from White Sands National Monument, has replaced Doug Brennemann as our Heavy Equipment Operator. Lynne and Brian Dominy have accepted new positions at Acadia National Park, and Rod Torrez, who recently replaced Cecilia Shields as one of our Interpretive Rangers, is now our Acting Chief of Interpretation (which we hope to permanently fill soon). So a lot of new faces and new ideas.
We continue to make progress with the renovations to the Visitor Center, with strong indications that it will reopen about the end of summer. The museum is almost ready for the installation of our new exhibits, with which you will be extremely impressed. The new monument film is being finalized and is apparently a top secret project, since our interpreters haven't even allowed me to preview it.... The construction team is finishing with the new theater addition and preparing the space for the WNPA bookstore, which are going to be great additions to our Visitor Center. Commendations go out to Lynne Dominy, Rod Torrez, Sally King and Chris Judson on all of the great work they've done in developing and implementing this project.
Liza Ermeling, our Facility Manager, has been busy with her team, completing planning and making preparations for our upgrades to the Juniper Campground and for the replacement of our gas line into Frijoles Canyon. Plans for the campground include reducing the total number of camping sites by twenty percent, developing walk-in sites, and restricting generator use to Loop C. The roads in the campground, as well as for the mesa top housing area, will all be repaved as well. Liza's team, with assistance from the Saguaro Trail Crew and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, were also successful in making improvements with our backcounty trails, with another push planned for this year.
A new program for us this upcoming summer will be the Bandelier Conservation Corps. This program will be managed by our Interpretive Division, with Kevin Stillman (our previous Backcountry Ranger) as Crew Chief, and Lucas Swina (our previous Pueblo Youth Intern) as Assistant Crew Chief. This crew will consist of two high school youth from Los Alamos, two youth from Espanola, and two youth from Pojoaque. The intent of the program is to be experience-based, with goals to introduce youth to the federal land management, teach stewardship and back-country ethics, and to get some much-needed work completed for the Monument.
This summer, the team will spend three days a week working on trails and the remaining two days working in smaller groups with the various divisions doing special projects. In addition, they will spend a couple of nights in the Wilderness, as well as spending a week at Rocky Mountain National Park working with the American Conservation Corps. Although we have funding this year, and possibly next, we are interested in making this a permanent program for Bandelier and may need assistance from the Friend's Group in finding sponsorship for this program's long-term success.
Another program that Bandelier has embraced is the Building a Better Future Program, which is an internship program designed to encourage college students to get into careers in the National Park Service. This year, we'll sponsor four interns working with Glenn Simpson and the Historic Preservation Program.
During 2009, the Interpretive Division implemented a new Junior Ranger Program, with new age-specific activities and four levels of free patches available for kids (funded by the National Park Foundation and the Centennial Initiative). Adults can participate in the Deputy Ranger program and earn a free patch. You can look at these new materials on the monument website at www.nps.gov/band. Len Scheel and Chris Judson have also established a Bandelier Steward Program for youth groups, including boy and girl scouts, which allows them to earn a special patch. We've also hired a group of local college students to assist us in our efforts of networking to the public using social media. Under the direction of Sally King and Colin McArthur, this team has developed Bandelier sites on Facebook and Twitter and will be enhancing our own official park website with new innovative and interactive features. So be sure to log in on Facebook or Twitter to track our progress.
Our Resources Program, under the management of Barbara Judy, has been fully engaged and very busy. This year we're planning to complete an additional phase of our ecological restoration project, assist the state with planning for the reintroduction of Bighorn Sheep into White Rock Canyon, and work with USGS and other partners on how we are going to prepare the Monument and react to Climate Change. Later this summer, we plan to reopen Capulin Creek for fishing, based on the success of the recent reintroduction of native trout. Steve Fettig and the International Park Flight Migratory Bird Program continue with their successes (please check the recent Spring 2010 National Parks magazine for an interesting article - there's also an article for the Manhattan Project).
As for the future of Bandelier, there are many new prospects, which include potential new sister parks, the Valles Caldera and the Manhattan Project. Recently, Bandelier staff has been included in public meeting for both of these recommended sites. It is conceivable that due to the proximity of these potential parks, that Bandelier may assume management responsibilities. This could mean expansion of the existing staff, and hopefully the ability to develop some additional specialized teams, such as a permanent trail crew. There would many obstacles such as office space, parking, and other issues that we would need to overcome, but I have every confidence in our staff and agency in addressing these issues. The opportunity to assist with establishing a new park is rarity for most, and we are very excited about the possibilities!
I have only touched on a few our endeavors, and could go on, and on, and on, in discussing all of the wonderful activities that our staff and visitors are engaged. There is certainly a much-needed role in all of these programs for the Friend's Group, and most of them would never have been initiated without y'all's support! We all are looking forward to our re-opening ceremony that will include participation with our Friends. We're also excited about our Bandelier Conservation Corps; it will be a great opportunity for us and the Friends in promoting the Monument and making connections to youth and the local communities.
As my personal one-year anniversary nears, and I'm finally getting a good understanding of the Monument and its resources, I'm looking forward to further developing my relationship with the Friend's Group and working for the continued protection of Bandelier and the enhancement of visitor experience.