Phase Two Reopening at Fort Frederica

We are now in Phase Two reopening at Fort Frederica National Monument.  This means we have our buildings open, but we are supposed to be enforcing social distancing guidelines.  Tom and I were pretty happy with Phase One because visitors could walk around the grounds and we could do some programming outside.  In Phase Two we have to figure out how to keep things clean, which is a harder problem.

Ranger Ellen in the bookstore

The approved Phase Two reopening plan requires three rangers / volunteers working at the Visitors Center at all times.  One person works the information table outside.  One person works in the bookstore and one works at the back entrance to the museum.  Visitors cannot move from the bookstore into the museum.  And only two people are allowed in the bookstore at a time.  Families, especially have a problem with this.  Parents want their children to be with them and they don’t want to take turns doing it.

The most boring of the three jobs is the back entrance to the museum.  First of all, most of the good stuff (interactive things you can touch) has been taken out.  Second, if they have to walk all the way around the building, most people don’t want to go in the museum.  So the back entrance person sits there and waits for the ten people an hour who come by.  Then you say, “Just go in, turn left at the chairs, and on up to the museum.”  People have to walk through the theater, which leads them to ask why we aren’t showing the movie.

The other day Tom had the back door for a while and he ended up with a theater full of people asking questions and listening to a class on Frederica from Tom.  We aren’t supposed to let people sit in the theater, and certainly not gather for a question and answer period.  Trust Tom to make any gathering a party.

Tom resting momentarily during his day of blacksmithing

Tom and I decided we would only work outside because we only had four days left of work and that way we could social distance easier.  The rangers were happy with that because it has been really hot outside and they would rather be in the air-conditioning.  So, during our last four days of working, we were either at the information table or at the back entrance.  We provided lunch breaks and archaeology breaks (more on that tomorrow).  Tom also spent one day blacksmithing because he had some stuff he needed to finish.

The biggest issue with Phase Two reopening is who is going to clean the restrooms.  Our head of maintenance is off because his wife has coronavirus, and he will be off for a while yet.  Our other maintenance guy quit because he didn’t want to clean the restrooms.  So the volunteers and interpretive staff have been keeping the restrooms neat and the park Safety Officer is cleaning them.  It isn’t a long-term solution, but it may keep the restrooms neat until the head of maintenance gets back.  We all know how important clean restrooms are for national park sites.

Meanwhile, we have more visitors every day.  The week of July 4th is the busiest for the park every year, and we typically have 300 to 500 visitors a day.  The person at the information desk, who talks to all the visitors, stays very busy so that is our preferred position.

We are glad that the park is on Phase Two reopening.  But we are also ready to head back to Ohio and take a break from working.