Thursday, July 26, 2018

What is a Camp Host and is it for me ?

So, you want to be a Camp Host at a State Park. What, exactly is a camp host and what do they do? Do they get paid for their work? Is the work hard? What about time off? What's a typical work day like.? So many questions. I'd like to devote this page to all the outstanding camp hosts that volunteer in the California State Parks system. Now, let's explore some of the questions.

There are a variety of camp hosts ranging from the visitor services to maintenance hosts in California State Parks. Typically the maintenance hosts clean the sites, pick up trash, clean bath houses etc. Other maintenance hosts perform minor repairs and assist the regular duty maintenance people doing things such as clearing paths, pulling weeds in sites, even trimming trees and bushes. Finally there are the visitor services hosts that typically assist the campers within the campgrounds with running camp checks, selling firewood, handing out courtesy notices to those who are not aware of the parks rules and regulations and assisting the kiosk in checking in arriving campers. They provide information to the visitors and ensure the campers make the most out of their visit. The camp check is important in that it ensures the camping information in the kiosk matches what is actually in the campground as far as trailers, motor homes, cars and tents. 

Camp hosts, whether they're maintenance or visitor services, generally are volunteers. As such, there is no pay involved but they usually get to stay in a site with full utilities, water, electric and sewer. The work can be demanding at times and often monotonous, yet usually very rewarding. We prefer being visitor services camp hosts as it allows us the opportunity to get to know the campers and provide them with information about the campground and surrounding area. As such, we are able to help with the campfire and junior ranger programs.

Scheduling is usually done by the camp host supervisor although some parks allow the camp hosts to do their own schedule. We have found the ideal schedule to be a 2 days on and four days off. This provides everyone a balanced schedule of about 10 working days per month. Four days off allows you to visit friends and family in the area, see a multitude of sights and even take a brief vacation away from the park if needed. A typical commitment is four months although some parks like six. IMO, four months is perfect and it allows for more opportunities to bring in additional camp hosts as there is usually a waiting list for many of the parks.

A typical work day will consist of opening the park by helping the morning aide open the kiosk for the day. This may include putting up the flags, any signage and firewood. The aide will provide you with the camp check sheet from the previous day letting you know which sites should be occupied, the number and types of vehicles assigned to each site. and which sites will be vacated that day. That camp check is then used to verify the board in the kiosk actually matches what is in the campground. Once those two things match you're free to do whatever you like. Typically, we go back into the campground and check for any rules violations, such as vehicles parked wrong, too many vehicles in the site etc. We issue courtesy warnings to violators but usually we speak to them individually and encourage them to comply. As is typical for most campgrounds, the rules are rarely read but will be followed once they are presented. We also use this time to familiarize ourselves with any site particulars that we might be able to pass along to any incoming campers. By afternoon, it's time for another camp check. This check ensures any camper that is supposed to be checking out is actually doing so. It's the camp hosts job to make sure the camp site is available to any incoming visitor. For California State Parks, check out time is noon. Check in time is 2:00PM. Those two hours are critical as it's during those hours the maintenance hosts have to clean the vacated sites, pick up any left over trash left behind etc. It also is a time when maintenance can do fix up to the sites, such as clearing debris, cutting back limbs on trees and bushes and any other minor repairs.

Once the afternoon camp check is completed, we once again confer with the kiosk aide to ensure we are ready for the 2PM check ins. I usually make one last sweep of the campground to ensure any stragglers are out of their sites. At 2PM the camp hosts should assist the kiosk aides with the check in procedure. This takes about 30-45 minutes and helps move the new campers into the park efficiently. I especially enjoy walking the line and introducing myself to the incoming campers. This establishes a brief but important rapport with them and makes any enforcement of the rules much more easier. It also provides me the opportunity to advise them of any issues they may encounter when they arrive at their site. Obviously, this requires me to be familiar with the campground and any particulars concerning each site which is done during any free time I have during the day.

The time from 3PM until dusk is your free time to use at your leisure. You can drive around the campground and visit with the campers or go back to your site and relax for a bit. Around dusk, I go back to the kiosk and assist them in closing out for the day. The kiosk may be open later but a lot of the signage and the flags must be taken in and the firewood replenished. We then make a final run around the campground from 8-9PM to remind visitors of quiet hours for generators and to ensure any loud and noisy parties are kept in check. We communicate any issues with the Rangers who provide any actual enforcement should it come to that.

And, that's pretty much it. I have found volunteering in the California State Parks to be a very rewarding experience. As with any endeavor, you will only get out what you put into it. If you're looking for a free spot for the summer, then perhaps this isn't the best fit for you. Volunteering is much more than free rent. It allows you to give back to the people who visit your particular park. Each park is different, yet the same. Each has a variation that keeps the work interesting, challenging and rewarding.

I truly hope this page brings some insight to those who are considering becoming a camp host. If you have any particular question that I haven't answered, drop me a quick line and I'll try to get an answer for you. Cheers - Dennis

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