Getting Around SSRPSP as Park Hosts

SSRPSP Horsemans CampGetting around SSRPSP (St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park) as park hosts can be a little daunting to new volunteers. Of course, with any new assignment it will take a while for you to get your bearings as to where everything is, whom to contact when you need new supplies or equipment as well as getting your new duties for that week or the rest of the month. The Volunteer Coordinator will be the main person you ask most of your questions, get your assignments and requests to be trained on whatever equipment or tools you are not familiar with. If he or she is unavailable you can always ask of one of the other park personnel but if it is not urgent you should email or text the coordinator. It helps the coordinator to be able to keep track of the volunteers, what they know and what they are doing so please make them your main point of contact. For the next two months our Volunteer Coordinator will be on maternity leave so the park hosts will be asking the Park Manager or the Weekend Park Ranger-in-Charge. Of course, if one of the other park personnel request your assistance to help them complete their current task and you feel comfortable doing it then by all means help them out.

ALWAYS keep track of your time no matter what chores you are doing for the park! You will, more than likely, go over your required hours each month but the coordinator really doesn’t want you to go over too much. They have to keep track of the man-hours spent on doing park business and an accurate accounting helps them get approval for more volunteers in the future. But they don’t want to burn out their volunteers before the service time is complete either. This is a two-edged sword for them. On the one hand, it costs them money in terms of utilities used by the live on-site volunteers as well as keeping a supply of T-Shirts, hats and the occasional token of appreciation. For some parks they provide added incentives as the the use of a washer and dryer, large refrigerator, sometimes free firewood and even the use of park equipment like canoes and kayaks if they rent them to the public, passes to visit the park in the future, etc. In return they get your services for manual labor for approximately 20 hours per week per campsite. We will talk about required hours more in another post.

Some quick facts about the park and where everything is:

The State of Florida along with the Florida Wildlife Commission and the St. Johns River Water Management District began acquiring the land that would become St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park in 1995. It was originally known as St. Sebastian River Buffer Preserve. In 2004, The Department of Environment Protection – State Parks Division, officially took over the management of the area and renamed it to a State Park. They began construction of the Visitor’s Center in 2006 and it was completed in 2007. The center is a large building with a screened in porch on one side where the public rest rooms are available. It has a large covered front porch with glass doors leading into the education and information area with lots of displays, brochures, stuff to buy, and a place to sit in a rocking chair while learning more about the park. It has a kid’s section with books, videos and coloring pages.

The Volunteer Village wasn’t created until recently and was originally a hunting camp. Now it has spaces and utilities for 4 Volunteer Park Hosts, a shop building to house the gators, lawn mowers, tools and other equipment as well as the gas shed, and laundry room. Currently, one of the spaces is being taken up by the newest park ranger, Gary, all around fix-it man, until his campsite is completed over by the Carpenter’s Shop area. This area houses not only the Carpenter’s Shop with all of it’s tools and supplies but the paint shed and two covered parking areas for other vehicles and some of the park’s fire equipment. The Assistant Live On-Site Park Manager has a house in the back of this area too.

The north side area of the park also houses the park’s office where the manager, assistant manager and the administrative assistant have their offices. There are two double-wide trailers next to each other separated by a wooden, raised walkway. One for the park personnel and the other for the C.A.M.A. (Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas) people who have their own equipment and shares space with the park’s maintenance areas. They keep their large boat in the Volunteer Village area when not in use checking on various areas of the Indian River Lagoon. The north side is current home to the Green Trail, The Yellow Trail, Pine Camp, Horseman’s Camp, Story Telling Camp, the Manatee Overlook, the Spillway Picnic and Fishing Area and a canoe launch deck with a picnic table, kiosk and two benches to sit next the the tributary off the south prong of St. Sebastian River. The north side volunteers keep the north side areas cleaned and mowed, work in the Visitor’s Center and open and close the north gate.

The south side of the park consists of the southwest quadrant where the Red Trail wonders around, mostly wet trails, and Eagle Camp located just off one of the canals. The Red Trail can only be accessed from County Road 512 in Fellsmere before I-95. The south entrance of the park is located also on County Road 512 (a.k.a. Sebastian Blvd) but in Sebastian, Florida at the North County Regional Park entrance east of I-95. The southeast quadrant has the Blue Trail, Tree Frog Camp, Mullet Camp with a Historical Marker and canoe launch, Ranch Camp with horse stables, two covered picnic pavilions, the Bunkhouse where the Americorp’s volunteer lives and another washer/dryer is available to all live on-site volunteers, a campsite next to the bunkhouse for the south side volunteer and finally, the south side shop area where the other half of the park’s equipment is stored and most everything is repaired. The C.A.M.A. people also have some of their vehicles stored near the shop as well as a shop area of their own. The live on-site Park Manager has a house in this area as well as the park’s biologist. The Americorp’s volunteers are in charge of spraying and/or removing ALL invasive plant life from around the park. I think they will be here quite a while. There are two of them, one that lives in the area and another who lives in the bunkhouse and gets a small monthly stipend to help pay for food. The south side volunteer keeps their public areas cleaned and mowed, opens and closes the south gate but mainly they will work in the park’s shop area.

More next week!

Some pictures from September at SSRPSP

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