HARPERS FERRY —Dale Nisbet, natural resource specialist at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, is clearly as enthusiastic about his work today, on the eve of his retirement, as he was when he started his job here 20 years ago.
Nisbet’s love for his work showed as he spoke, nearly non-stop, of the peregrine falcon project, or trying to hold the park’s deer population to a sensible number per acre, or dealing with invasive plants and insects including the emerald ash borers that are killing the park’s stately ash trees.
Nisbet, who earned his bachelor’s degree from West Texas State University, joined the National Park Service 28 years ago.
He worked in six national parks including Yellowstone and Everglades. Over the years, he has been a park ranger, law enforcement officer, dispatcher, wildland firefighter and dispatcher. “And once I was a mail and file clerk,” he said.
Nisbet said the peregrine project was his favorite. “It was a very positive thing to do – trying to help an endangered species get re-introduced onto Maryland Heights,” he said.
He said similar projects succeeded in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia in the 1990s.
Harpers Ferry personnel got help from officials from the National Fish and Wildlife Service to secure chicks from the wild to raise until they fledged and were released with wireless transmitters in the hopes of having them roost on Maryland Heights. “They never did, but it can take generations,” he said.
Park officials hope the deer problem can be controlled with organized hunts and an attempt to control ash borers by attacking them with predators.
When Nisbet ends his NPS career this week, he will conclude another of his favorite duties, working with college interns.
“They bring a new thirst for knowledge,” he said. “They want to do the best they can and find new adventures. It was great just to get to know them.”
Hope Fraser is one such intern.
She graduated from Shepherd University’s Natural Resource Specialist program and is following that with a master’s degree from Virginia Tech. On a recent day she was working as a natural resources assistant in Nisbet office. She first worked for Nisbet as a volunteer, later as a paid intern and now back again this week as a volunteer, she said.
Nisbet’s wife is Elizabeth Kerwin-Nisbet, the media specialist for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The couple has a 6-year-old son, Daniel.