Spooky Beaver Crew Update – 05-29-2020

Hi, fellow Spooky Beavers, I wanted to give you an update on when we might resume trail maintenance activities at Prince William Forest Park (PWFP) and under what parameters or protocols we might operate under.

First, the long-awaited update of the memorandum of agreement between PATCand PWFP has been finally signed by all parties.  A BIG shout out goes to John Stacy, former Spooky Beaver (well, he does come back to help  if we have a  footbridge to build) and current PATC Supervisor of Trails, and toTanya Gossett and the park staff  for getting us across the final hurdles. I’ve attached the MOA for your review.  (Attachment will be available soon.) There are some changes in how we operate and policies we must comply with.  However, as referenced in the MOA, the Job Hazard Analysis documents describe in detail how we safely plan and execute our volunteer efforts.  We’ve provided PWFP a copy of the club’s COVID-19 safety plan that being used by PATC volunteers who have returned to trail maintenance activities in the Shenandoah National Park (see attached,  subject to edit or changes to be specific to PWFP).  (Attachment coming soon.) I welcome your input.

Once PATC and PWFP collaborate on the additions to the JHA’s safety precautions  during pandemics, if we’re not already permitted to return to the park for  trail maintenance activities, I likely will schedule a Crew meeting over Zoom to go over the MOA and the specific safety plan for future trail activities during the pandemic so we get a head start when we restart our activities.    If you have  a preference as to when you would be most likely be available,(weekend, weekday, evenings, etc.), drop me a line.

Second, the park remains closed to PATC volunteer activities until such timeas NPS and PWFP, consistent with Federal (CDC, NPS, etc.), State (Governor) and local government officials and in collaboration with PATC leadership, determine it is safe to resume our volunteer activities.  I want to emphasize all parties understand the value to Americans of the natural resources and solace  the park offers, especially in these trying times, but the approach is tempered by focusing  on the  health and safety  of volunteers, park staff, and visitors. Knowing someone who has the virus can be contagious UP TO FOUR DAYS WITHOUT EXPERIENCING SYMPTOMS or recognizing some who ignore all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of others makes prudent public health planning challenging but absolutely necessary.So, as noted above, PATC will collaborate with PWFP on the appropriate measures we will take to protect ourselves and others. I will keep you informed as to where we stand on getting back, but in general, future trail outings, including National Trails Day on Saturday, June 6, and individual trail overseer activities, remain CANCELED until further notice.

Third, the park staff have from time to time got out on the trails to document trail conditions (blowdowns, wash outs, bridges out of place, etc.).  Kudos to Mike Custodio and others from the park staff  for keeping me informed about trail conditions.  I’ll send out a summary of what he has identified (and in some cases, already taken care of).  But in general, especially since we were unable to do any  “spring cleaning” before the park’s  closure , the trails are actually in pretty good shape.  I expect once we get the green light to go back, we may have additional crew outings to get things back up to speed consistent with the park staff’s priorities, especially for trail sections  that typically require early vegetation control around this time of year.

In closing, I know most of you are chomping at the bit to get back to the trails for a whole host of reasons.  I thank you for your patience and understanding.  I don’t expect it is going to be much longer, but how long is unclear because of the various Federal, State, and local governments as well as our PATC leadership being involved in the decision-making.  But be patient, things will start to get clearer sooner than later.

Take care of yourselves and those around you.  Be safe, be well.  I’ll keep you informed.

Mark Ellis
PATC District Manager
Prince William Forest Park

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