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A familiar face in new place
New Prince William Forest Park superintendent wants to expand knowledge of its rich history

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Date published: 1/7/2010

By Rob Hedelt

LOOKING at the hand-built wooden gutters and rough- hewn "waney board" exteriors at one of the several cabin groups in this 15,000-acre facility, Vidal Martinez can't help but be excited about the history that's at the core of Prince William Forest Park.

"Finding new ways to share the story of this park, and how so much of it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is a big part of the job of being superintendent here," said Martinez. "There's so much history to this park, it's hard to know where to start."

Martinez may have recently taken over at the park located just north on Interstate 95, but he's not new to the National Park Service or this area.

Before arriving here in late fall, the New York native with 34 years of federal service was superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. That park conserves, protects and interprets 56,000 acres of land bordering the Upper Delaware River.

Prior to that, Martinez served as superintendent at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County and the Thomas Stone National Historic Site in Port Tobacco, Md., a site that commemorates one of Maryland's four signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Martinez said he enjoyed the challenge of Upper Delaware and was glad for the chance to work on issues ranging from the handling of gas leases to the use of life jackets.

But the gregarious park superintendent said he had never been able to sell his home in the Fredericksburg area, and had been separated from his family for long stretches.

"When the job here in Prince William opened up, it seemed the perfect fit," he said.

Recently, I joined Martinez and staffer Tracy Ballesteros to learn more about the park's facilities and its past.

"We've got five cabin camps built by the CCC, and over 200 historic structures in the camp," said Martinez of what was known originally as the Chopawamsic Recreation Demonstration Area, one of the first of many similar New Deal recreational projects built around the country.

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