Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Day in the Life of Green and Khaki

by Nessa Schrank -Administrative Assistant Turtle River State Park

Working at Turtle River State Park but living in Grand Forks gives me a 20 mile commute every morning to see the beauty that nature offers. The morning commute gives me the opportunity to see a lot of things people in town don’t have the opportunity to see.  Some of these visual treats include the ice covered trees sparkling in the sun along Highway 2 and seeing just how much snow really accumulated the night before (since we all know the forecasts aren’t always correct). As my car follows the road that curves around the front marsh into the park I can always count on seeing some type of wildlife Turtle River State Park has to offer, whether it is the hairy and downy woodpeckers, blue jays, or white-tailed deer. 
Working as an Administrative Assistant means I spend a lot of time in the office. You may see me with my face buried in paperwork, or yapping away on the phone taking reservations for the year round rental facilities that call Turtle River State Park home. There are always plenty of Thanksgiving and Christmas parties eagerly being booked in the upper level of the Chalet especially since the new handmade wood furniture and fireplaces really add that “comfy in nature” feel to the space. The Woodland Lodge is getting its fair share of calls this time of year with anxious brides planning their weddings for the summer of 2013. 
When I’m not buried in paperwork, taking reservations, or ordering new merchandise for the gift shop for visitors to take home as memories of their fun filled stay at the park, I’m actively using one of the finest skill sets every park employee must learn to master.  What is that skill set you ask?...WELL, that would be the fine art of upside down map navigation. In order to show newcomers where they are headed to take a hike on the trails, or where the best place to spot those white-tailed deer are, we need to possess the ability to read that map upside down and backwards…what an interesting task! There are many fine talents among the staff at any of our ND State Parks.

Nessa Schrank-
Administrative Assistant Turtle Rver State Park

We encourage you to come on out, see the winter beauty the outdoors has to offer, and appreciate the talents all staff possess. Every park, statewide, looks forward to seeing your smiling faces!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Frozen Wood Frog

by Amy Schimetz - Interpreter and Lake Metigoshe Outdoor Learning Center Coordinator

One of the most common frogs in North Dakota is the wood frog, which is prevalent in areas north and east of the Missouri River.  It’s easily identified by its dark mask around the eyes.  The wood frog lives near moist wetlands.  Their range extends farther north than any other frog, having been found in shallow ponds located in the Canadian tundra. 

The wood frog baffles scientists as it is an extreme hibernator.  It has the ability to basically freeze solid and come back to life every year. 

When winter temperatures and snow falls, the wood frog pulls water from its limbs into the center of its body.  This puts its organs in a puddle of water, which turns to solid ice.  Soon, there is no breathing, no functioning kidneys and its heart actually stops for days or even weeks depending upon the winter.  Before the frog flooded itself, it produced a type of sugar that works like antifreeze so the cells stay moist enough to hold together when freezing.  When spring comes and the frogs begin to thaw, water flows back into the cells, the heart starts to beat once again and the frog begins to breathe.  Within a day or two, the frog appears to come back to life, stretching out its limbs and hopping away.  Wood frogs are able to do this year after year.

Amy Schimetz - Interpreter
Scientists are still trying to figure out how it’s possible for the wood frog to accomplish this amazing task.

Check out this video on YouTube to see this amazing freezing/thawing frog in action.

Friday, February 1, 2013

 The Life and Times of a Park Maintenance Supervisor in Winter

By Tyler Modlin, Maintenance Supervisor Fort Stevenson State Park

Well, it’s the off season or so they say, but it seems like there is never a lull in activity for the NDPRD.  We have individuals at headquarters that are working hard regarding the legislative session and all that entails, law enforcement officers enforcing snowmobile laws and regulations around the state, biologists working on plans for weed control and tree planting, managers and rangers gearing up for the upcoming camping season. So what does the Maintenance Supervisor do?

The Maintenance Supervisor during the winter is just the guy that goes out fishing daily and, for a few months, seems to keep his hands clean of dirt, oil and grime right?  If so please let me know where that job is.  Even though it’s winter, there is always something that needs fixing or repair. For Maintenance, it’s time to get to those projects that were put on the back burner during the summer season and to gear up for the upcoming camping season.

Due to being one of the most visited parks in the department, our picnic tables took a beating.   This winter is a prime time to re-furbish those tables, so they are nice and ready come summer.  We stripped and waxed our concession floor, so it looks brand new and inviting come those warm temperatures when ice cream sounds like a better deal than hats and gloves.  Repairing dumpsters is another fun thing to do during the winter; somehow the dumpsters get bent and beat up during the season.  Going through our mowers is a major part of winter maintenance operations, making sure they are up and running in top notch for next summer. Bearings, spindles, and motors…oh my!

My Buddy
I still get outdoors weekly to groom the cross country ski trails and recently have become buddies with a Great Horned Owl that seems to follow me while grooming.  We are either buddies, or he thinks I am dinner. 

Then there is the boring paper work stuff that needs to get done such as preparing the maintenance work plan for the summer including pesticide application, trail maintenance, building maintenance, grounds upkeep and tree planting.  I would rather have the grease and grime than paper cuts.
Tyler Modlin
Maintenance Supervisor Fort Stevenson State Park

With that, I hope you all have a wonderful new year and hope that you visit one of the great state parks located in wonderful North Dakota.  Now it’s time to go check my tip ups for some fish! (Kidding)