|Corps of Engineers News/Features
|Park Attendants Focus on Making Camping Fun|
|Doesn’t it feel great when you pull off the road when traveling, and the folks at the campground entrance station give a warm greeting, efficiently handle the check-in, and help with the campsite? Come on out to Seven Points Campground, where Park Attendants Billie Jean and Cordell Armstrong roll out the red carpet to make campers feel welcome! Campers experience friendly, capable service from start to finish. “Our philosophy is ‘camping is supposed to be fun,’” Cordell said. “If we can help the people who come out and camp, it’s great! And they really appreciate it.” “We enjoy the campers,” Billie Jean said. “We get a lot of information from them – all the places they’ve been – and we learn from them. They come from everywhere - all over the country and from around the world, including Canada, Switzerland, and Australia. The locals enjoy the campground too.”
Campers at Seven Points are drawn by its location in Music City USA - Nashville, Tennessee. The wooded campground on beautiful J. Percy Priest Lake offers an oasis of serenity within the metropolitan area. Like most Corps lakes, J. Percy Priest offers wonderful recreation opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking or just relaxing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages it and many other scenic lakes and waterways across the country. “The country music industry brings them here – things like the Grand Ole Opry,” Billie Jean said, and adds with a laugh. . . “some campers call Cordell ‘Kenny Rogers,’ because they say he looks like him.”
Cordell is busy with things other than singing in concerts, and he starts his day early with opening the gate to the campground at 6:00 a.m. He makes a round of the park to check on late arrivals, check the facilities, and to see if campers have any problems. Billie Jean opens the registration center at 8:00 a.m. to check in campers and answer the phone requests for information. Campers get everything they need plus that extra touch that makes their stay special. “I’ve got site 43 available and I think you’ll enjoy it.” Billie Jean tells a camper coming in. She shows him the location on the map and adds, “It’s an easy one to back into.” Cordell offers a brochure and a smile. . . “This has some local places that may be of interest to you while you’re here.” Other times, Cordell is helping people get situated on their campsite. Billie Jean goes that extra mile and calls nearby campgrounds if people come in without a reservation and the park is full.
Reservations at Corps campgrounds are available through the National Recreation Reservation Service at 1-877-444-6777, or online at www.reserveusa.com. The Corps has many opportunities for park attendants to help operate campgrounds and day-use recreation areas. Park attendant positions at Corps lakes are generally handled one of three ways, depending on the lake: 1) small contracts directly between the park attendants and the Corps; 2) working for a company that provides the park attendant services for the Corps; or 3) volunteering. Most Corps park attendant contracts require two adults to provide their own RV and live in the recreation area 4-7 months. Work shifts are usually 5-6 days a week and may include evening and/or night-time hours, split shifts, and will almost always include weekends and holidays. Duties vary, but generally include greeting visitors, collecting fees, maintaining a status board of occupied sites, providing information, using a computer to pull reports and check campers in, inspecting the area to assure proper use of facilities, providing surveillance, opening and closing the gate, and maintaining quiet hours. The Corps usually provides a complimentary campsite with water, electric, and sewer hookups.
Billie Jean and Cordell work for Theta Technologies, Inc., a company that has a comprehensive contract with the Corps to provide a variety of services at the lake including cleaning, mowing, janitorial services, and park attendant services. Some park attendant positions include some cleaning in the campground, and others do not. “We take care of the entrance station and our campsite, but we don’t have cleaning responsibilities in the park,” Billie Jean said. Cordell added, “We check the campground facilities, and if I can fix something fairly simple, I do. If not, we report it to the Corps.”
Some people volunteer as a way to try out park attendant work or enjoy the flexibility that volunteering offers. “We started out as volunteers at Shutes Branch Campground, and the next year we got a paid position at Cages Bend Campground. Both of those parks were on Old Hickory Lake. After that, we got out for awhile to help some family members with some health problems. When we got back into it, we came to Seven Points, and this is our fourth year.” Volunteering is a great way to get some outdoor recreation work experience that can be useful when applying for paid jobs. It’s easy to get information about volunteer positions. Contact the Corps of Engineers Volunteer Clearinghouse at 1-800-865-8337 or go online to www.lrn.usace.army.mil/volunteer. More than 70,000 people volunteer for the Corps every year on its nearly 12 million acres of land and water across the country. Volunteers serve as park or campground hosts, staff visitor centers, maintain park trails and facilities, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and more. A free campsite with hook-ups is often provided. Volunteers enjoy beautiful lakes and waterways, meet new people, gain valuable skills, and make a difference.
Park attendants, with a few exceptions, are not Federal employees, since they are either independent contractors, employees of a contractor, or volunteers. Cordell said, “It’s a nice job and we’re enjoying it. It’s also a good way to supplement our retirement. We work seven months and we’re off five. If you love camping and like people, you’d enjoy it.” Billie Jean added, “People are really appreciative and we get a lot back.” Todd Yann, Resource Manager for the Corps, said, “Cordell and Billie Jean do a great job. I’ve had campers tell me about how much they appreciate the way the Armstrong’s go out of their way to help them. That willingness to help embodies the spirit of making the campers feel welcome.” Billie Jean and Cordell live their philosophy that camping is fun at Seven Points Campground.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Volunteer Program • Nationwide Volunteer Clearinghouse
Learn more about becoming a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Volunteer today!
To apply online click here or phone the Volunteer Clearinghouse Hotline 1-800-VOL-TEER (1-800-865-8337)
|Read previous Corps of Engineers Feature Articles:|