Page 8 - Work Force May 2020
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Parks employees working hard to maintain facilities
 As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many New Yorkers are turning to state and local parks to alleviate stress and get some recreation.
This influx of traffic at our state and local parks has caused an attendance spike throughout the state and nation, including the Niagara Falls State Park.
While many New York State
Park grounds, forests and trails
are currently open for passive recreation, the state continues to urge residents to stay home during this public health crisis. The state is also asking park visitors to choose parks close to home and practice social distancing and other safe practices.
For CSEA members who are responsible for maintaining the parks, the spring has been busier than ever.
The Niagara State Parks Commission, which boasts more than 20 parks and historic sites throughout Western New York, has more annual visitors than any other region in New York State. That has put CSEA members in overdrive,
making sure the parks are ready for the upcoming tourist season just around the corner.
"Every year in late March and early April, we gear up to get the parks ready for the warmer months and bigger crowds,” CSEA Niagara Parks Local President John Elia said.
Elia said employees are working very hard at rock scaling operations, cleaning pavilions and rest rooms, doing lawn maintenance, tree trimming, planting thousands of bulbs and generally sprucing up everything in sight.
“We have tried to keep our focus on the job at hand,” said Elia. “We are coming to work and getting the job done, in the midst of all these other challenges we are facing on a day-to-day basis.”
One of the more dramatic tasks performed by CSEA members
this time of year is a rock scaling operation, where park employees rappel down the Niagara gorge some 200 feet above the bed of the raging Niagara River.
Donning helmets and protective gear, workers use pike poles to remove any loose rock and debris
Pat Josker, Park Worker 3, uses a pike pole to loosen debris, rocks and ice from the walls of the Niagara River gorge. (Photo by Chris Sodano II,Parks & Rec Aide 5) See additional photo, page 2.
James-Allen: ‘You don’t know what to expect from day-to-day’
 STONY BROOK — Juanita James-Allen, a CSEA activist and licensed practical nurse (LPN) at Stony Brook University Hospital who normally works in the emergency room, is also working at COVID-19 triage sites in the hospital’s South P parking lot and helipad.
In the South P lot, patients are tested by a doctor, who then evaluates the patient to see if that person can
go home or needs to go into the main hospital.
“At the helipad, we’re treating [COVID-19] symptoms and trying to make patients comfortable,” James- Allen said. “If they need to be admitted,
we do that.”
Despite the hospital’s measures to
isolate COVID-19 patients, James-Allen said they are located throughout the hospital.
“We’re exposed daily,” she said. “We’re just doing the best we can to protect ourselves. In the beginning,
it was scary because we didn’t know what patients contracted the virus, and which ones had not. The policies are changing every day. Now, we don’t go near a patient without having on PPE.”
The pandemic is having an emotional effect on health care staff everywhere, and James-Allen is no
“It’s scary because you don’t know
what to expect from day-to-day,”
she said. “Before I go to work, my stomach gets upset due to my worry about being around this virus and
the uncertainty about what the day will bring. It’s a scary thing. Everyone is overworked and stressed. We’re worried about exposing our families to what we’ve been exposed to at work.”
“Although our patients are very ill, they’re very thankful for our help,” she said. “I’m glad that I can help them. It makes me feel good. ”
— Wendi Bowie
Juanita James-Allen on the job.
(Photo provided by Juanita James-Allen)
8 The Work Force
May 2020
that have built up over the winter months. The work is carried out
to make it safe for visitors who use walkways, picnic areas, hiking trails and the lower observation decks. The work usually takes just over a week and will continue until completion, weather permitting.
“Our crew is beyond brave and courageous when they do this work,” Elia said. “It takes an enormous amount of skill and intestinal fortitude to do rock scaling, and they never fail to get it right every time.”
Throughout the winter, water can creep into the crevices of the rock and through the freezing process slowly loosen pieces of rock as the
frozen water expands, which then poses a danger to people occupying spaces below. Ice-jacking is the name of the process that loosens the rocks on the gorge face.
Once the rock scaling has been completed, an inspection is made
to make sure everything is safe
for visitors and park employees. Each winter, the lower observation decks are closed to the public to ensure visitors are safe from ice and possible rock falls.
“All we are trying to do is keep some normalcy here for visitors and our staff alike,” said Elia. “So far, we are doing exactly that."
— Ove Overmyer

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