One Month Down and One to Go

StJoes07062013 (9) We have been here at TH Stone Memorial St. Josephs Peninsula State Park as campground hosts for 1 month. It has been rainy, hot, stormy as well as nice breezes off of the Gulf of Mexico. The work is sometime hard but mostly due to the heat. We get up early in the morning before the sun rises to clean two bath houses. This can take us sometimes 2 to 3 hours to do depending on how bad they are and how many interruptions we get. We have been assigned to the Gulf Breezes campground area. Originally, we were assigned to the Shady Pines campground which is on the St. Joe Bay side of the peninsula underneath pine trees and in between the palmetto bushes. Due to the shortage of campground host volunteers during this time of year we were reassigned to the Gulf Breezes side and are responsible for the entire campground 5 days a week. The Volunteer Coordinator is Ron and he seems nice but the manager of the park, Mark, does have some unrealistic goals for the campground hosts.

They require that each of the campground hosts work 4 hours a day, 5 days a week and get everything done. That includes cleaning the bathrooms every single day, cleaning out the campsites as they are vacated, and shoveling and sweeping the boardwalk leading to the beach area. With all the rain and storms they have had in the area the sand has been piled up on the boardwalk anywhere from 4 to 10 inches thick all the way across and approximately 50 feet of the boardwalk that has been places right next to the sand dunes. There are no boards on the sides to keep the sand from running down back onto the boardwalk as you shovel it either. So, here is what we do: get up at 5:00am and start cleaning the largest bathhouse first which is air conditioned, with a separate men’s, women’s, a single family shower/bathroom with a single washer/dryer. The men’s side has three showers, two urinals, two sinks, two mirrors and three toilets that have to be disinfected and cleaned. The floors have to be swept and mopped and the ceilings have to be swept as well because there are all these little little knat-like bugs all over. We cannot use any insecticide to kill them either. The women’s side has three tiled showers, three sinks, three mirrors as four toilets. The only cleaners we are allowed to use is 5% watered down bleach water and watered down pine oil. Because it is a beach-side camping area there is always lots of sand in the bathrooms that have to be swept out. You want to get their early enough for it to have dried so it is easier to sweep out. Wet sand is a pain to get up off of the tiled shower floors. There is a supply are located between the walls of the two bathhouses with all the supplies and equipment you need to get the job done. The family shower/bathroom has a funny lock on it that will stay locked unless the person manually unlocks each time it is used. The single washer and dryer costs $2.00 per load a piece and is getting kind of rusty because of the salt air.

The other bathhouse is a little smaller, not air conditioned and much older. It is white-washed brick with some tile on the floors and painted wood dividers in the showers and toilet areas. The showers are on one side and the bathrooms are on the other, men’s and women’s are separated of course. The supply closet is in the middle of the building and very cramped. This bathhouse/bathroom building doesn’t have as many problems with bugs but is very stuffy during the day. And it doesn’t take as long to do, however, it really needs some repairs. We have been told that they are not going to be making any major repairs or remodeling to this building as it is slated to be replaced. After cleaning each of the bathhouses we have to clean up the mop buckets and straighten up the area for the next round of cleaning. In the evening, we have to go around to each of the bathhouses and restock the toilet tissue, make sure there is not major messes and pick up anything off the floors. Generally, we will also sweep the sidewalks in and around the bathhouses before we leave for the morning.

The campers that are checking out have until 1:00pm to do so. And we are supposed to have two hours to clean these vacated spaces before new campers come in around 3:00pm. From what we have been told, generally the Florida State Park Campground Hosts will radio in to the ranger’s office to let them know when the campsites have been vacated and cleaned. They don’t really do that here. And the office is supposed to tell the campground hosts those leaving and those coming as well. That doesn’t seem to be done here either. When we had our first day of training we were told that we are to call into the office with our supply needs and the rangers will bring them out to us. Well, that really doesn’t happen either. They hare short staffed here in rangers as well as campground hosts. It is usually easier and more efficient to drive get the supplies when we go to the shop and retrieve the golf cart to clean the campsites. This is my first time driving a golf cart and it is kind of fun. It is an electric cart with a small truck style bed in the back to haul stuff around. It doesn’t go very fast and bounces along the road as you go. We can check it out anytime it is not in use by the rangers or one of the other campground hosts. Mom drives while I get out and pick up the trash and clean out the fire pits. We try to do it around 1:00 each day, if it is not raining that is, and have it done within an hour. They have a box of gloves and a handful of plastic bags in the dash. It is hot work and by the time we are finished we have usually sweat through out clothes.

Finally, about an hour before sunset when it has cooled down a little bit we have to restock the bathrooms with toilet paper and grab a shovel and industrial broom to do the boardwalk. Our first two weeks here Katie did most of the shoveling and I did the sweeping. We got most of the sand shoveled all the way down to the last 3 or 4 feet before Katie and Isabella (my granddaughter) went back to Jacksonville. Now, I do the shoveling and mom does the sweeping. Sadly, we had a death in the family soon after they left and we had to make a trip home ourselves. While we were gone the sand did not get shoveled and built back up again. Since, we have gotten back mom and I have gotten about half of the boardwalk re-done. Our other campground host even consented to shoveling some of the sand as well and was able to get another 7 feet yesterday. Needless to say that between the three or four jobs that we have to do each day they take at least 5 to 6 hours to get done. Because of the heat and powerful sun this time of year we can only do one job at a time, go to the RV and rest for a couple of hours and do the another one, go back and rest a little bit and then do the last job. In between jobs, getting cooled off, etc. we still have to clean our own site, the RV, wash clothes, walk the dog and go to town for supplies, gas and groceries. Not a lot of time left over to explore or have any fun.

Tomorrow is the first of the month and I have been assigned to work in the Museum. I didn’t know they had a museum here but it turns out that there is the Constitution Convention Museum located in the town of Port St. Joe, Florida. It is a Florida State park where the Florida Constitution was created and debated. It wasn’t signed here though. Anyway, St. Joseph’s Peninsula Rangers are responsible for the museum and the grounds. They have one ranger who works there full time but he is going out of town and they need someone to open it up, sit there all day, collect entrance fees from any visitors and then close it back down. I only have to do it for two days but I still have to help mom with the bathrooms each morning. These are going to be long days. The volunteer coordinated assigned the other campground host couple to other things and mom cannot do both bathhouses by herself. Needless to say the campsites will not get cleaned and the boardwalk will not get swept either. I haven’t worked 10 hour days in a while. 🙁

Till next time!