*Kelly Barnett (2PSNAPOD) is a contributor to HeartlandRV's blog. All opinions expressed are her own.*
What is Workamping?
Workamping is volunteering at campgrounds, National Parks, animal refuges etc in exchange for a campsite and/or pay.
Some locations want a couple to split the work while others are fine with a single doing the work. Some locations will even take families as workampers.
Age isn't normally an issue as some work campers are well into their 70s while others are much younger. As long as a person is physically fit a prospective 'employer' will take whatever help they can get as in any situation, volunteers are a hot commodity and not easy to come by.
Duties can vary depending on the location – mowing, cleaning bathrooms, landscaping, clean fire pits, working in a camp store, checking in customers, taking reservations, administrative work, tending to animals, acting as a tour guide, working a cash register etc.
Duration and Hours
Most prefer at least a 3 month commitment with many requesting an entire season – April – October.
Hours can vary from 20 hours per week (or less) to 40 hours per week per person.
Since Michael retired from the US. Army in October 2012 we've found that his retirement check pays the bills but for a little supplemental income we've been working here and there. We've worked in the oil field as gate guards during the winters since January 2014.
We've taken on two very different workamping positions in campgrounds.
The first was a three month stint from October 1 to January 1 in Sanderson, Florida, at Ocean Pond Campground. Sanderson is just a little blip in the road so we did all of our business in Lake City, about 20 miles west.
I took a position as an administrative assistant at the Osceola Forest Ranger Station and worked just 20 hours per week…if that. I worked at the ranger station four days a week doing various organization projects and also relieving the receptionist if she had to be away from her desk.
I organized the store room, a large book shelf, and the file cabinets of a pretty disorganized person. By the time I left things were very nicely arranged and things had homes of their own…whether it stayed that way or not…I don't know.
One afternoon a week (for a couple of hours) I worked in the guard shack at the campground itself welcoming campers and answering questions. It was usually pretty quiet as the campground was small but I enjoyed meeting the people.
Michael wasn't an 'official' volunteer but helped every now and again around the campground. He and one of the other camp hosts became good friends so he helped him with his chores whenever he needed it.
We received a shaded, full hook-up site across from the lake, use of a 'tool' shed located on our site, free bottled water and ice. Plus, I received a travel reimbursement for driving the five miles (one way) back and forth between the campground and the ranger station.
The second position was one that we both took on.We worked 35-40 hours per week, six days per week each at a National Forest campground in Huntsville, Utah. Our oldest son and his family lived about 20 miles or so from the campground so it was a good opportunity for us to spend time with them throughout the summer.
Anderson Cove Campground is busy, busy, busy, and we were hopping all summer long.
We were assigned a 'loop' to manage and were responsible for everything within that loop.The loop had 15 camp sites, plus a group site that could hold 100 people.
Responsibilities included placing placards out with names of campers who had reserved sites, maintaining and cleaning three two-sided pit toilets, cleaning fire pits, picking up any litter and making ourselves available to campers.
In addition, we monitored the parking in the boat launch parking lot as it was small and filled up quickly. When the parking lot was full we had to put out a 'boat parking full' sign and then take it down when more parking was available. We also needed to keep office up to date on the amount of parking available so that they wouldn't oversell boat launch passes.
Michael did most of the work in our loop and I helped him when I had time. My main job was working in the store/office. I was scheduled 20-30 hours per week with various hours starting at 7:00 am and ending at 10:00 pm.
We checked campers in, sold merchandise and answered questions. I also had the added responsibly of maintaining the reservations board so that everyone knew what sites were reserved and which were available to be rented.
We received a full hook up campsite and $7.25 per hour for each hour we worked.We also received a 50% discount on items in the store.
Workamping is what you make of it. Some people feel you aren't paid enough working for just a site. Other's feel they are justly compensated.
You have to weigh your interests and need for compensation.If you work at an animal refuge and absolutely love getting a chance to work with the animals you might not care about additional compensation.
If you work at a campground and are putting in 40 hours of labor (mowing, weed eating, carpentry projects, etc.) perhaps working for just a site isn't worth it.
Each experience is different. When deciding on a workamping position, ask questions. Find out what the expectations are and how you'll be compensated. You would if you were interviewing for a new job.
We both enjoyed workamping in the past and are planning on taking on a position with Dane County Parks in and around Madison, Wisconsin for 2018.
Below I've listed several websites that can help you find the workamping position that's 'just right' for you!
[Editor's Note: Stay tuned for another workamping article from Kelly about jobs outside of the RV park]