First Three State Parks

Our First Three State Parks have been great to visit and it would be nice to be able to stay more than 3 days at each one. So far, in our 10 Florida State Parks Vacation, we have visited Oscar Scherer State Park, Lake Manatee State Park and Little Manatee River State Park. We are currently in Alafia River State Park but will hold that review until next time. Not only are we enjoying our stay at each one we are checking out possible future campground hosting assignments. You never know we could get lucky and get our 2015 year all planned out before summer!

We are taking pictures, working on our next festival and just enjoying not being responsible for our fellow campers and cleaning. Don’t get me wrong we do enjoy being campground hosts but after a year of almost straight volunteer work we are ready for a little downtime.

For Campers:

Oscar Scherer State Park

Camping spots are plentiful with over 100 sites. The only bad part is the narrow bridge you have to cross in and out of the campground area. We hit our retractable steps on those little rubber posts and they were knocked clean off. That will cost a little bit of money to get them welded back into place. It is a little hard to judge with our Class A RV and those steps have been hit by traffic cones before so it was probably my fault. Just be very careful going in and know your width of your vehicles before proceeding. The campsites have vegetation between in each for a little privacy but share water faucets between pairs of them. There are no sewers on site but a dump station located in the camping area. The roadway in the camping area is paved while the sites are mostly dirt and gravel.

There are 5 bathhouses with good water pressure and lots of hot water and two of those have one washer and one dryer each for $1.50 a load. There is a creek that runs along the campground for canoeing and kayaking.They have a small lake in the picnic area next to the Nature Center for swimming, a playground, nature trails, a large bathhouse and FREE wireless available there and in the screened in porch attached to the building. They have drink machines as well. Best of all you get three to four bars on your cellphone throughout most of the park! We didn’t get any on-air TV Reception but there are lots of places to shop and eat just outside the park entrance along U.S. Highway 41 (a.k.a. S. Tamiami Trail) including a Super Walmart just two miles north of the park.

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Lake Manatee State Park

This park has two circles of camping with about 60 sites with 30 in each area. You can access the lake from the large picnic area which has pavilions, picnic tables, barbecue grills, a volley ball court, swimming and a large bathroom with outside showers. There are trails to walk and bike ride. They also have a large boat ramp area with two metal floating docks. Fishing, Swimming, and hiking seems to be the main activity of the park.

There is a paved road into both camping areas with one large bathhouse each. They are extremely nice bathhouses with plenty of hot and cold water with great water pressure. Each of the campsites has vegetation of both sides and in the back for privacy and are sand and gravel. There is no laundry facilities here for campers. Each campsite has a long pipe above the water faucet with a sprinkler head. We were told this was in case of fire in the park. There are also no sewers on the sites. The dump station is located on the road leading out of the camping area. The best for for me was that we got 4 and 5 bars on my cellphone and internet wireless and mom got to watch regular TV. Even our pitiful antenna got about 20 stations for most of the time we were there.

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Little Manatee River State Park

This state park is located just off U.S. Highway 301 next to the Little Manatee River. The park only has 30 campsites, an equestrian trail and small camping area and a primitive camping area next to the river. There is a nice new bath house in a separate area with a canoe and kayak launch area. They have a separate picnic area with a playground with a portable stage set-up for concerts. This parking area could use some work though. The Family campground has nice long sites with lots of vegetation between each one for privacy. They have water and electric but no sewer. The bathhouse is huge with three hot showers and very decent water pressure. They also have a utility building next to the bathhouse with two washers and dryers ($1.75 to wash and $1.50 to dry). You can get two or three bars on your cellphone throughout most of the park. We could not get any TV reception using just our outside antenna.

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For Potential Campground Hosts:

There are lots of opportunities in our Florida State Parks for people who wish to volunteer and get a campsite in exchange for work, in both state parks with camping and those that are considered “Day-Use” only. You just never know until you apply:

Oscar Scherer State Park

For those looking for Volunteer opportunities at this state park, Tony Clements (Resident Park Manager), sent us some very helpful information about their Campground Hosts. The winter months are usually full with both volunteers and campers but from about April to the end of September they could always use volunteers. They try to keep 7 campground host singles/couples throughout the year but is harder during the late spring and summer months. They have a lot of activities during the peak months which makes for a more enjoyable volunteer experience for those who like variety. They are also have other volunteer opportunities if you don’t want to clean bathrooms and campsites such as: Children’s Program Assistant, Children’s Program Coordinator, Event Coordinator, Event Helpers, Field/Maintenance Work Group, Friends Gift Shop Inventory Control, Grant Writer, Grounds Maintenance, Maintenance/Auto Mechanic Assistant, Nature/Visitor Center Assistant, Nature/Visitor Center Coordinator, Non-Native Plant Removal, Office Assistant, Park Maintenance, Photographer, Photo Plotting, Prescribed Fire Team Member, Ranger Station Assistant, Ranger Station Toll Collector, Student Volunteer, Tour Program Guide, Trail Maintenance, and Volunteer Coordinator Assistant. Some of these positions may not include a campsite so check with the Park before you apply. As we stated above there are no sewers on the campsites including those for the campground hosts. However, for those staying in the volunteer village next to the Park Maintenance area those have sewers on-site.

Sample list of Volunteer activities:
1. Daily cleaning of an assigned bath-house.
2. Clean, maintain, and check safety of camp sites. (Fire pits, grills, tables, etc.)
3. Minor repairs at camp sites. (tables, grills, etc.)
4. Operate small gas equipment. (weed-eaters, blowers, chainsaws, etc.)
5. Minor repairs in bath-house.
6. Outside display kiosks to be cleaned.
7. Ensure playground equipment is safe and in working order.
8. Ensure all electrical receptacles are safe and free of obstructions.
9. Ensure that the dump station is safe, functional and sanitary.
10. Act as a camper resource, contact person and information source.
11. Be available for late-night emergencies.

To get more information about volunteering opportunities please contact:

Cristy Disbrow, Volunteer Coordinator
Oscar Scherer State Park
(941) 483-5956

Local residents might want to check out the Friends of Oscar Scherer State Park website as well.

Lake Manatee State Park

I spoke with Park Ranger, Michael McLaughlin, about their volunteer campground host positions and he stated they they are also full for the late fall and winter months but April through the end of September they really need some help. The campground hosts clean the bathrooms and campsites but there are no sewers on their campsites either. They have a volunteer village next to the Park Maintenance Shop area with more RV Campsites with sewers for volunteers with laundry facilities and extra showers as well as Free Ice. That will come in handy this summer. These sites are mostly for maintenance volunteers and outside the campgrounds helpers. It is a fairly small state park but very clean and well maintained. They have plans to add sewers to the campground area but that is way in the future now with all the budget cuts.

**Update** I received this email from Mr Alaniz: “As well as campground host we have, office assistant position, and General Maintenance positions, our office assistant help with registering campers, collecting fee, and other office duties, and our maintenance help with a variety of things like, mowing and maintaining fire break and park, maintaining equipment, maintaining buildings, painting , general clean up.

The amenities and benefits we can offer to our resident volunteers are, free campsite with water and electric and some with sewer, ice, firewood, laundry facilities, and any rental equipment we offer(bikes ,canoes, ).”

This park does not have an active “Friends Of” group to help with fundraising. They could use one. If you live in the area, enjoy the park and would like to start a Friends club please go the main website for the Friends of Florida State Parks website to find out more:

For those interested in volunteering at Lake Manatee State Park contact:

Eduardo Alaniz, Volunteer Coordinator
Lake Manatee State Park
(941) 741-3028

Little Manatee River State Park

At this park we spoke to Jose Santiago, Park Ranger, who was manning the Ranger Station. He was extremely helpful with information. Since, this park only has 30 campsites for regular RV/Trailer campers they don’t have as many volunteers. No, there are no sewers on the campsites but they have a volunteer village near their Park Maintenance Shop area that has recently been renovated. The campsites there are mainly for the maintenance and grounds volunteers and has a laundry room that the all the volunteers can use for FREE. Mr. Santiago stated that he has volunteers booked throughout most of the year but could use some during the summer months like most parks. They were gearing up for a spring concert when we were there for this coming weekend and they have a small equestrian camping area as well as a popular primitive camping area right next to the river.

We emailed the park manager for more information and found out that Mr. Santiago is their volunteer coordinator and that the “campground host sites are sites 4 and 30 in the campground. Unfortunately they do not have sewer hook ups. Duties consist cleaning the bathhouse, cleaning campsites, assisting campers, keeping supplies stocked, informing park management or staff of any issues or concerns in the campground and keeping a professional and courteous attitude at all times.

The volunteer sites at the shop are for volunteers who work in the maintenance department. These sites do have sewer. The duties of our maintenance volunteers include:

Construction, electrical and plumbing repair, vehicle maintenance, mowing, weed-eating, chainsaw work, fence line installation and resolving any minor maintenance repair issues that may arise.”

The Volunteer Coordinator does his schedule only six months in advance so if you would like to get more information or possible even volunteer please contact:

Jose Santiago, Volunteer Coordinator
Little Manatee River State Park
(813) 671-5005

Check out the Friends of Little Manatee River State Park