Being a Park Host

We’ve had a lot of readers, family members, and friends contact us with questions about what it means to be a park host.  I realized it is way past time to talk about it.

The first big question: how did we get this gig?

It’s a great story, though fairly short.  We applied through the State of California, didn’t hear back, went into the office to ask them about our application and they pretty much brushed us off and said they had a lot of applicants.

We moved to a county campground and asked the rangers about applying through the county.  We followed their directions and applied.  We heard back three hours later.

They gave us the option of three different parks that had openings.  We chose our top two, went to visit them, and told them what we were thinking.  Then we interviewed with the head park ranger for those parks, the same person.

After we passed that interview, we had to pass background checks, health checks (including getting TB tested), and then the waiting period came.  Everything went through a lot faster than we thought it would.  The process took a couple of weeks and then we moved into our park!

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After TB test.

When we tell people we are park hosts, the first thing they think is that we work in a campground.  We actually work in a day-use park which means that we are the only overnight guests.  Our park closes at sunset.  We live on-site as caretakers.

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In exchange for 20 hours of total volunteer time, we receive a place to park our RV and free water, sewer, and electric.  It’s a pretty sweet gig, especially since this location gives us our own fenced in yard.

Two paid park attendants are scheduled at our park as well but they do not live on-site.  We are scheduled for four days a week and they cover the rest (we overlap a little), plus rangers who patrol the area occasionally.

So what do our 20 hours entail?

Aside from making sure the park is patrolled, we do a variety of things to maintain it:

We weed and remove brush/fallen branches or leaves.

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We prune trees and flowers.

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We weed whip, mow the lawns, and blow off the sidewalks.

But the bulk of our job?  Picking up and pulling trash.  It is amazing how messy people are (and how little some of them care).

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Climbing area littered with trash.  This is nothing compared to after a party…
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Seems too much to ask to just put stuff in the trash can.
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Our most-used tools, a bucket and trash picker.
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One load of trash after a busy Friday.  Sometimes we do up to three on Saturdays.

It’s not glamorous work but someone has to do it.  I’d say it beats working inside under fluorescent lights all day.

Our least glamorous part?  The bathrooms.  It is impressive how some people can just destroy a place, for no apparent reason.  We have found a wide array of things that I don’t need to mention here but one word will explain it all: gross.

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There are four restrooms and a supply closet in this building.

I might sound a little bitter about some of this.  I don’t mean to be.  Some days it is hard to think positive about people when you see how little they care about a place or think about the environment.  Most people don’t think about who has to clean up their mess, what animals might get into it, who or what it might effect.

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One night of picking up recyclables laying around the park.

For all of this, we love our park and most of the people who visit it.  We have families who play basketball almost every night.  We have birthday parties, graduation parties, memorial services, confirmation celebrations, prom photos, wedding photos, and family reunions.  People who come to enjoy the beautiful little 8 acre park in the middle of town.  A little slice of nature.

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View from front parking lot towards playgrounds and basketball court.

Our park has a basketball court, tennis court, picnic area, gardens along the backside, and shares space with the Boy and Girls Clubs and Boy/Girl Scouts.

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Boys and Girls Club
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One picnic area.
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Reservable space.
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Middle of park, looking towards tennis court.

Last Saturday, we had six separate parties.  One had a clown and the other had a bouncy house with a slide.

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Middle of park looking towards the office, supply shed, and our fenced yard.
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Looking up towards garden paths.
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We have large pepper trees around the park, some of them more than 100 years old.
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One of the back walking paths.

We love seeing our regular guests, the people who exercise or walk their dogs in the park every day.  Seeing friendly faces of people enjoying the park we try so hard to keep nice makes us feel great about what we are doing.

We love working outside.  Splitting 20 hours is a great deal to get everything that we get.  We feel very lucky every day that we walk out in our park.

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Can’t complain about the sunsets.

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The best part is when park guests come up to us and thank us.  It happens weekly—someone tells us that we are doing an amazing job and that the park looks great.  They thank us for making it a great place to be.

It might not be a glamorous job, but we feel like we are doing something that has some meaning.  We are making our part of this little world a better place and we are happy at the same time.


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