November 2010 - Parks & Recreation - 43

" On the Mississippi barrier islands, reports are that crews
with hand tools have been much more effective recently, "
Brown says. " There is also concern with the machines about
harming some of the micro and macro fauna, like ghost crabs,
that live in the top foot or so of the sand. Hand tools, while slower, are more gentle on the environment. "

tamara augustine

Gulf State Park in Alabama:
Like Nothing We've Ever Dealt with Before
When asked how recent preparations for incoming oil
were different from hurricane preparation, Mike Guinn,
acting superintendent of Gulf State Park in Alabama, says
there's no comparison. " This is like nothing we've ever dealt
with before, " explains Guinn, who knows a little something
about disaster preparedness.

current law is not equipped to deal with a
spill of this magnitude, and Congress knows
this law needs fixing. Will it be a case of " out
of the news, out of mind? " Once the gushing well was capped and active damage was
diminished, media attention waned, and almost predictably, so has public attention.

Do you have a sense of historical
perspective about the oil spill?
Parks and many other public lands, including beaches and shorelines, seem to recover quickly to all appearances. Nature has a
marvelous way of healing environmental insults. However, the greater effects are seen
in the loss of biological diversity and overall environmental quality, often only seen
over time and long after the cameras and
reporters are gone. I was astonished by
how quickly a marsh in Swanson's Creek, a
tributary to the Patuxent River, apparently
	

Gulf State Park, a park encompassing two miles
of white sand beaches and campgrounds along the
Gulf of Mexico, was devastated when Hurricane
Ivan swept through in 2004. So how did Gulf State
Park prepare for this most recent threat to its beaches? They simply played the roles of watchdog and
public advocate, monitoring the water along the
coastline carefully and alerting both BP and park
visitors of oil amounts and locations.
The beaches were never closed. Instead, Guinn
and the rest of the staff of Gulf State Park put up
warning signs and did their best to educate the
public on a daily basis about the impact of the spill
and the possible risks of swimming in the water.
Guinn emphasizes that the park worked to support BP in its
cleanup efforts-and that its only role in the actual cleanup
was to alert BP to areas where park employees monitoring the
coastal waters had spotted oil. Guinn gave the oil company
high marks for both its cleanup work and its responsiveness to
Gulf State Park's oil monitoring efforts.
In the immediate aftermath of the spill, Guinn recalls, the
beaches were dead. For an area that depends on beach tourism, the ghost-town feel of Gulf State Park in late spring and
early summer was unnerving. But recent efforts to re-ignite
tourism have begun to bring a steady stream of visitors back
to the park. Guinn said the shrimp festival in October was especially successful-and that free concerts by Bon Jovi and
other performers during the " Thunder on the Gulf " music series also seem to have given local tourism a welcome boost

recovered after being covered in oil. Yet, on
closer examination, it was only a small subset of very hardy vegetation that recovered quickly and greened-up the marsh.
For long afterwards, the diversity and richness of this once thriving marsh was lost.
One thing I have noticed about the response to the Gulf oil spill is the desperate
pleas of researchers for sufficient funding to
study the effects of this spill over time, and
their fears that serious scientific questions
about the massive use of dispersants, and
the long-term effects of oil on marine life, will
not be answered and that we will not learn
what we need to know for the next spill.

What are your thoughts on planning and preparedness?
In my experience serving as the director of the Forest, Wildlife, and Heritage
Service of the Maryland Department of
www.NRPA .ORG

Natural Resources during the oil spill on
the Patuxent River in April 2000, I can
tell you that preparedness is critical to response, and to the prevention of damage to natural resources and wildlife.
This is true for both the private sector
companies who are responsible for a spill
and the governmental organizations who
have jurisdiction over water quality, wildlife,
and public lands. However, without readiness
training, funding, and adequate preparation, the chances of being fully prepared are
greatly diminished. Additionally, the longer
time goes on from the last catastrophe, the
less readiness quotient there is for the next
event. Even in the best trained and equipped
organizations, the institutional memory of
how to pull together to meet the overwhelming challenge of an environmental disaster
fades without a conscious effort to regularly
plan for and prepare for the next event. 
No v e m b e r 2 0 1 0

Parks & Recreation	

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November 2010 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of November 2010 - Parks & Recreation

November 2010 - Parks & Recreation - 1
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