Our last week as campground hosts at Myakka River State Park went about like you would expect. We got a wide variety of unexpected problems that week such as a tornado warning, loud camper complaint after 11:00pm, and a water warning. Of course, about three-fourths of the campground checked out that weekend and over half of them had fires the night before. We got all that taken care of and turned in our keys and hosting manual but before we could leave the temperature light on the RV decided to go to red and stay there. Our fellow campground hosts, a former GM worker, said that it was probably broken because it stayed that way even when the RV was turned off. And we had another bird’s nest in between our RV batteries. Luckily, there were no eggs in the nest yet. We hope to be able to come back to this lovely park sometime in 2015. The bad part of being there was the cellphone/internet service was pretty spotty. They have three camping areas and all three have their charms. Palmetto Ridge is all gravel, large sites with sewers and large new bathhouses. Big Flats camping area is all smaller sites near the Myakka Outpost and lots of shade but little privacy but no sewers on sites except for the campground hosts. Old Prairie has a small older bathhouse, mostly shady sites and no sewers on site except for the campground hosts and the two overflow campsites.
January to the middle of April every year is a bad time to be in southern Florida if you want to find a campsite and haven’t made reservations ahead of time. We will say that there are lots to do during these months with various ranger programs, concerts and other campers giving seminars as well. There are lots of people on bicycles, walking the trails, fishing in the river and lake and taking tours on the tram or on the air boat. There are people bring their canoes and kayaks or renting them and paddling all over the park. The canopy walk is extremely popular all day long and all through the week. Sadly, we never got a chance to take the walk and that was pretty disappointing. We did get to take a new volunteer orientation back woods tour with another of the long-time volunteers. It was a very nice day and a great way to see what the park has to offer.
The park has over 50 volunteers during these months to help take care of the campgrounds and park. With that many people coming in to help the rangers can get a lot of resource management done as well as have great programs on a regular basis. These volunteers pretty much come every year so it is hard to get an assignment. But they have an active social life for themselves with weekly pot luck dinners, game and bomb fire nights and movie nights together. The park organized a volunteer picnic and paid for the food. Of course, you have monthly meetings as well for training, questions and answer sessions and just to keep abreast of what’s happening. These great volunteers organized and ran a weekly campers social hour to help raise money for the park. It was a very well attended event and allowed the campers to meet other campers, campground hosts, rangers and other staff in an informal setting.
The park had volunteers in the visitors center, the ranger’s station, cleaning up the pavilions, park rest rooms, grounds, resource management in the preserve and doing repairs as well as the regular campground hosts. The extra volunteers have a volunteer village area next to the shop where about 15 to 20 RVs and Travel Trailers had FULL SERVICE campsites and their own laundry room. Across from the main entrance is an old Trouble Teen camp that now belongs to the park called Stop Camp. It has a large meeting room with full video and kitchen facilities where meetings are held, the pot luck dinner and other volunteer events as well. There are about 4 Full-Service campsites there as well as a cabin that they call an apartment that can be rented for a small fee each night with 30 days notice. It’s a great place for friends and family of volunteers can come, stay and visit. They also use it for visiting performers.
There are a wide variety of duties that volunteers can do in the very large park. It does slow down during the late spring and summer months but they still need help. We were told that the summer months Big Flats and sometimes Old Prairie and the Cabins will be closed due to flooding. There will be more insects too. But if you would like to work some really nice people and have a place to stay during the summer months you might want to get that State of Florida Parks Volunteer application in as soon as possible. If you do well you might even get to come back during the winter months yourself.