Fun with the Bike Patrol at Palisades area of C & O Canal

Saturday I went for my first installment of training to be a C & O Bike Patrol member. When I had sent in my contact information, I was then contacted by the leader of the Bike Patrol for that area. They were offering the training on 1-12-13 – could I attend? I was also advised to bring my bike with me for a ride-along, so the Fargo and I went to Potomac, MD on Saturday.

The Bike Patrol exists to be then “eyes and ears” for the rangers and park management. “The Bike Patrol is composed of members of the community working with C&O Canal National Historical Park to provide a professional presence along the towpath and thus enhance visitors’ time spent in the park. Members patrol the canal on bicycles and offer information to visitors, answer questions, report hazards, and serve as resource protection stewards. Bike Patrol Volunteers are highly visible and are often visitors’ most easily-approached park representatives.”(http://www.chohvip.org/bike-patrol/)

The members deal with people doing things they shouldn’t – like having their dogs off a leash, being in the canal itself, and other things that are not legal. Bike Patrol members inform, not enforce. If the people who are doing what they shouldn’t continue, then the situation is called in to dispatch and the rangers and other entitities handle the situation. Most people are reasonably cooperative, but some become difficult and then they need a ranger’s attention.

I learned a lot. The Palisades area is not far from Great Falls and the Billy Goat Trails (a, b, and c). Because of the the proximity to this area, many people use this area for recreation. I saw kayakers, bikers, many walkers and runners, and one horse which was mounted by a Park Policeman – they are the only horses permitted here, all others are forbidden. There was lots of interaction with the public, and surprisingly, I enjoyed it. I’m not always a big people person, but this was really fun!!

We (the class) also got to watch part of a movie about the history and biology of the park – there were many things I didn’t know or even expect to hear about on the video. Certain small animals may only exist in one area of this park and not anywhere else, and sometimes not anywhere else, ever. The park also has a variety of mini ecosystems and biomes that require care to keep them from being destroyed.

There was also a presentation – lots of dos and don’ts – numbers to call, people to see, and the like.

If you want to join, check out the application here – https://www.volunteer.gov/gov/uiapply.cfm?ID=8359

Overall, it was quite interesting and I learned a lot. I’ll be completing my next ride-along in Williamsport, since that’s the area I will be in most of the time. The gentleman who was my ride-along partner, Tom, was really great. I learned a great deal from him and really enjoyed watching him work with the people. It was obvious he really knew what he was doing. Thanks Tom!!!

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