LAPEER COUNTY — Summer job opportunities are expected to be few and far between again because of the struggling economy. Yet, if you prefer the outdoors, and especially camping, the state offers a unique opportunity to get free camping while helping the public through its Volunteer Campground Host Program.
Campground host opportunities are available at state parks and at state forest campgrounds that offer family and group camping facilities. As a campground host volunteer, you are allowed a minimum of four-weeks of free camping in one of Michigan’s beautiful natural and/or historic areas. The volunteer schedules allow ample time to enjoy recreational activities with friends and family members, while providing volunteer services within a Michigan State campground. Hosts will have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and perhaps develop new friendships, say DNR officials. “One of the most important benefits hosts receive is a sense of satisfaction that comes in knowing you have helped make the camping experience more enjoyable for other campers.”
Hosts can be individuals or teams, such as a wife and husband, but must be 18 or older and have their own camping gear. Minimum requirements for all hosts including willingness to be of service five days a week, including weekends and holidays, totaling about 30 hours per occupant.
Hosts must serve a minimum of four consecutive weeks and DNR employees are not eligible. Must also provide own camping unit, equipment and personal items, and all must submit to and pass a mandatory background check.
Volunteer hosts are selected by state park and state forest managers, who may require an interview or request additional information. Selection is based on familiarity with the Michigan Campground System, camping experience, special skills, availability, knowledge of the surrounding area and needs of the park.
Michigan offers two distinctly different types of camping experiences at rustic state forest campgrounds or modern state parks and recreation areas. Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas are highdensity facilities containing between 100 to 400 campsites with all the basics including shower buildings with flush toilets, running water spigots, and sanitation stations. Electrical hook-ups are available at each campsite. General Questions about the Michigan State Parks Campground Host Program can be addressed to Pam Ames at 517-467-7401.
The primary responsibility of a campground host is to assist campers by answering questions and explaining rules in a pleasant and helpful manner. As a representative of the Michigan state park hosts will provide services including: greeting new campers, distributing interpretative information, answering questions about the local area, arranging campground activities such as camper coffee hours, kids fishing derbies, campfire sing-a-long and berry picking, and other services depending on capabilities and the campground facilities.
Volunteer Campground Hosts are not law enforcement members, but are asked to be observant and notifying park staff of problems. They are recognizable by their official vests, shirts, hats and nametags.
Once selected, hosts must attend training provided by the state. The 2012 training dates are April 25-26 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Center in the Grayling area. To apply, fill out the State Park Campground Host application available at www.michigan.gov and mail to the park in which you want to host.