Want to spend summer at a campground?

April 26, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Campground hosts at Washington State Parks are underpaid. (They’re volunteers, and when you’re paid nothing, that’s less than being paid something.)

They can find themselves on call, simply by answering a knock on their camper door, at the oddest of hours. (“Excuse me, but the people in the tent next to our site are snoring really loud. Can you do something about that?” The correct answer: Uh, no. Why didn’t you bring earplugs?)

They have to provide their own living quarters. (Their own RV, usually.)  Sounds like the worst of all possible gigs, right?

Yeah, right. That must be why so many campground hosts keep coming back for more of the same abuse.

“We have hosts who come back year after year, and come back a lot of times to the same parks,” said Cindy Jorgensen, who coordinates Washington State Parks’ volunteer program. “We have snowbirds who go south for the winter and then come back to their parks for the rest of the year.”

But because the vast majority of campground hosts are retirees who eventually get around to retiring from hosting as well, every year around this time the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission puts out the word that it’s seeking “enthusiastic and interested volunteers” to serve as campground hosts at its parks around the state.

For the record, I’ve met a lot of campground hosts, and while there might be the occasional grousing — usually about overly demanding or inconsiderate campers — on the whole these folks seem to be genuinely happy about what they’re doing. They love being in the great outdoors or they wouldn’t do it, and let’s face it, a state park is generally set in a pretty nice place to be outdoors. That’s why somebody made it a park in the first place, right?

So, you’re thinking, what do these people have to do?

OK, let’s get right to the question you really want answered. NO, THEY DON’T CLEAN TOILETS.

(Audible sighs all around.)

Hosts do different things at different parks — but, again, no toilet-cleaning. Some are meeters and greeters; some get into knowing the topography, history or other interesting facts about the park and its surroundings and enjoy doing “interpretive” talks with campground guests; some might do general maintenance, help staff with minor carpentry or, in some cases, help man a park store.

Hosts do receive free camping and hookups for their RV/camping equipment (which each host has to provide). A typical host assignment is 30 days, but it can be extended up to 90 days at the park manager’s discretion.

For a list of volunteer and host openings, visit http://www.parks.wa.gov/volunteers/hosting, or stop by the State Parks booth at the Puyallup Fair, May 3-6. If you want to give campground hosting a shot, contact Jorgensen at 360-902-8612 or [email protected] or Laney McIntyre at 360-902-8617 or [email protected].

- Scott Sandsberry

Filed under Blogs, Out There, Outdoors


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