Working holidays as parks hosts or campground hosts in our Florida State Parks will take up quite a few of your required hours for the month. Not only do you have to get your regular duties done but you will more than likely get called in to set-up the park for any special events planned during the holiday, replace park staff that will be taking off for said holidays and there will probably be more people in the park during those holidays to deal with. It seems that almost every single Florida State Park that offers camping will be full during every single holiday that falls on a weekend. Of course, this generally corresponds to the kids getting out of school for the holidays. Mostly, you get local residents every weekend with a few out-of-state visitors as well. This includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Independence Day and Memorial Day. As hot as it gets in Florida during May and July there will be lots of people camping in the state parks.
This will make your duties a little harder to get done but the mission of the parks is to encourage attendance as much as possible. It can be nice to talk to the different kinds of visitors, find out where they are from, ask the locals for recommendations of restaurants, stores and the like. You are one of the park’s ambassadors and as such you want to project a friendly and knowledgeable face so that they will keep coming back. We also try to talk to each of them about the benefits of volunteering. You can never have too many of those!
Each park has a set budget each year no matter how many people visit and utilize the facilities. With increased attendance it takes a few years for the parks to get an increased budget to maintain the park’s equipment, add on new features, etc. It is mainly with the help of volunteers both local and live-on-site that help keeps are parks going. The local “Friends of the Park” organization is only as effective as the people running it. They are generally the ones that will raise money for new trucks, golf carts, playground equipment and participate in any scheduled large clean-ups that the park rangers want to do on the trails and day use areas. Remember the State of Florida Fiscal budget year ends on June 30th each year and it takes a month or two for the park to get their funds. We have found that the parks run out of money after about six months so they are unable to get new parts and sometimes not even be able to buy gas for the lawn mowers. It is very difficult sometimes to hold onto funds for emergencies so we try our best not to break anything, mow just enough to keep the park looking nice, use electric rather than gas equipment where we can and use our muscles to get most of the work done. We have even gone so far as to buy needed cleaning supplies if the park has run out.
Just remember that you get to stay in the park without having to pay for camping fees, sometimes they are able to provide FREE laundry facilities, and you can join in on whatever events they are hosting. You might even get to teach a class yourself, if you like that sort of thing, and have been trained for it. We haven’t worked in the ranger station yet but we have been trained to be toll collectors. There is so much more to do and learn in our parks besides cleaning bathrooms.
Till next time……
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