Dade Battlefield Historic State Park is a great place to start your career at being a campground hosts in our Florida State Parks. Since they do not have campsites for visitors then you would be called a Residential Host. This little park encourages local people to join the Dade Battlefield Society and volunteer for as many events at the park as they are able. Mostly, it is a grunt position where you help set-up for events, maybe participate in the events, help with parking or just help clean-up afterwards. We were offered the position and given “special projects” while we were there. Which started with us painting the new Park Ranger’s House before his and his family’s arrival. Let me tell you that was a learning experience for my Mom and I. In between painting we were asked to participate with the Pioneer classes that the Volunteer Coordinator has once a month. Sometimes we would demonstrate how to make corn-husk dolls or sit at the gatehouse and collect the entrance fees. When we arrived there were two other Residential Hosts as singles, one is a carpenter and regular handyman and the other is an electrician, handyman and worked cleaning bathrooms and maintain all the equipment and buildings. They also did most of the set-up and clean-up before and after each of the events. Later another two volunteers came in and helped with the lawn maintenance and the events. The last month another family arrived and they helped us with the gatehouse and events participation.
The park has spaces for 6 RVs and I am sure they were full when we left because their major event of the year was the Seminole and American Soldier battle. The state wants these little parks to host more events and this one does a lot already. From the Kids Pioneer Crafts Festival, the Haunted Halloween Hayride, Christmas Pioneer Crafts Festival and pioneer crafting classes each month along with the regular ranger programs each month. The local schools even has the kids come in from the ROTC to practice orienteering. They have regular visitors that come in to walk the paths, kids to play on the playground, weddings and photographers taking pictures of the large oak trees. Our first event was the Kids Pioneer Crafts Festival. There were over 350 home-schooled, public and private school children running between each of the booths learning about pioneer life. Mom was sick that day and couldn’t help me and the next day I felt like I had the flu for a couple of days. For the Pioneer Haunted Hayride the park borrowed a couple of trams from Weeki Wachee Park to run everyone around the park with a Seminole War Party Dancing next to the fire, a black clothed old saw bones cutting off body parks, a pioneer family yelling and running around, moaning ghosts from the battle in the woods and next to the stream, a gun firing pioneer coming out at you in the dark and a little old pioneer woman ghost stuck in an outhouse. There were a lot of people coming through that night and I just drove the truck. That was after mom and I had created about 400 candle and sand bags and placed them all along the paths to light out way.
The final event was the Pioneer Crafts Event where mom and I helped the participants to make more corn husks dolls while the other volunteers helped people make rag dolls, clothes pin dolls, carve soap, punch tin candle lights into cans and much more. There was square dancing, holiday music and lots of different crafts being made throughout the whole front part of the park. In between all these events we also was able to hop up on the large mower and mowed some grass. Of course, the front of the park is pretty well worn down and when you mow you get a lot of dirt and grit and some of the other areas underneath the large oak trees have large populations of mushrooms so you had to wear one of those hepa-mask. But with my headphones hooked up to my MP3 player and a tank full of gas I can mow the heck out of the area. It was fun but hard work.
As a Residential Volunteer at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park you get a nice campsite with water, electric and sewer; access to a large freezer and refrigerator space, washer and dryer and, when they work, a golf cart for running back and forth. In exchange you only need to work around 20 hours per week per couple. They give you three days off and the work is varied to say the least. They have an extra shower inside the garage shop with lots of hot water and terrific water pressure but it is only a single and created as an after thought. The new manager is really nice and has been in the State Park system for a while and wants to use more residential volunteers all year round. But, of course, with the budget crunch they are in danger of loosing their residential volunteers or having them severely limited. That is so sad because they only have the one manager, two rangers and a volunteer coordinator to run the park, interact with the visitors, keep the park cleaned and maintained and man the visitors center.
The visitors center is extremely nice and is well worth a look if you should ever visit it. They have relics from the time period, information about the battle and the area as well as a short movie to watch. That is all included with the price of admission of $3 per car load. We wish them luck and hope to come back and volunteer again.