Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Student Elizabeth Bostelman at Prince William Forest Park, VA

Working in the park collections.
This summer I spent twelve weeks at Prince William Forest Park about 30 miles outside of Washington D.C. as a Cultural Resource Diversity Intern.  Before I tell you all about my project, let me give you a little history on the park. The park was created as a Recreational Demonstration Area (RDA) in the late 1930’s during the New Deal Era. Chopawamsic RDA, as it was called then, was built to be the model for other RDAs built across the country. Two small towns and many farmers were displaced to create the 13,000 acres of park land you see today. The Civilian Conservation Corps followed the farmers and built five cabin camps in the park, which are still used today. During World War II the park was taken over by the OSS, a precursor to the CIA, for training purposes. After World War II the park was turned back over to the Park Service.

Fast forward to 2011 and the park is having its 75th anniversary. Remember those towns that were displaced to create the park? Well the people who lived there left something behind……….48 cemeteries. The problem was no one knew who actually owned the cemeteries. This made it difficult for the park employees to form any kind of management plan, so my job was to discover who owned the cemeteries.

By the end of the summer I had confirmed the ownership status of 40 of the 48 cemeteries. Thirty-one of the cemeteries are owned by the park and nine are owned by the families who used to live on the land. Some of the sources I used to discover the ownership status were local researchers, a trip to the National Archives and sitting at the computer going through pages and pages of digitized deeds. Since many of the cemeteries were away from the trails in the park, this project also involved a lot of work with GIS. I definitely sharpened my GIS skills this summer!

One of the highlights of the summer was getting to participate in the 75th anniversary camp out. The other Resource Management interns and I were put in charge of the Camp Olympics. We had to plan all the games and work with Maintenance to ensure we had all our supplies. Some of the games we had were tug-of-war, an obstacle course, and the classic egg and spoon race. It was a great weekend enjoyed by the guests and staff alike!

There are so many more adventures I could tell you about: why I spent a day all muddy from head to toe, the copperheads, 4th of July in D.C., the list could go on for many more pages! I loved every minute of my summer and loved the program I was involved in. For those of you that are interested for next summer check out the website at the top and if you’re not convinced yet, this might entice you. It’s a paid internship! If you want to hear more about what I did, come find me on campus! I’d love to tell you!

All of the inerns and supervisors.

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