Each time we complete a work camping job we post an article detailing how we got it, how it went, whether we enjoyed it and any lessons learned. This post is about our experiences with Adventure Ocala. If you have not checked out our other work camping experiences we will leave links to them below.
Needed To Get Closer To Florida’s East Coast
While working at the KOA in Milton, we found out that Chris’s older daughter was pregnant and was due with her first child (and Chris’s first grandchild) in February. Being that Milton was approximately 7 hours from her daughter this was not sitting well with Chris. Almost right away she stated she wanted to be closer to her daughter. This news came in the spring/summer. The search was on.
After searching our usual workamping job avenues, we found a job for day-use attendants. I believe we found the job in Workamper News. The company that was advertising the job runs several campgrounds/day-use areas in the Ocala National Forest. We reached out to the contact listed and received a call back quickly.
We Decided Not To Take It
Our conversation with the contact person did not go as expected. Most people would try and sell the position to fill it right away. Not this one. She repeated a couple of times that the salary was minimum wage and there was no wifi, which we had expressed was important to us. She laid out the hours and the duties of the job. Since we didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from the phone interview, we were getting a really good package deal from Milton, and we did not like the fact there was no wifi, we turned the job down.
Chris Was Having Second Thoughts
Over the next couple of days, Chris was having second thoughts. Even though the KOA in Milton was treating us well and we had a much better benefits package the bottom line is we were still about 7 hours from Chris’s daughter. After many long discussions we decided to see if the job was still available. Again, we heard back pretty quickly and were told the original place they needed someone was not available but another day-use area they manage was. We accepted.
After giving our 2-week notice to Milton, off to the Ocala National Forest we went. We were super excited to be working in the forest as we love visiting forests. The place we would be working at was a place we had visited the first season we started full-timing. Alexander Springs was one of the first day-use areas we ever visited. When we arrived and got set up at our site, we were amazed to see that our Verizon phones had a great signal!!!
Fast Forward One Month
After working there for only one month a lead host position opened up at another day-use area and we put in for it. Our interview took place at the new location and within a day or two of the interview, we were officially offered the position. Everything moved quickly from that point and within the next couple of days we found ourselves at our new location, Silver Glen Springs.
Uh Oh, What Did We Do?
Moving day was a busy one. Apparently, the old leads took off with no notice. Things were becoming a little clearer as to why we were hired so quickly…lol. Towards the late afternoon, we were texted by our bosses to meet them at the company office at Juniper Springs. After setting up at our new site, off to Juniper Springs we went. This is where we learned what was really going on.
Out Of Control
We learned that there had been a few lead hosts before us and that they pretty much all left suddenly. We learned that there was really no structure there and the employees were kind of doing their own thing. We spoke about what was expected of us and were told we had our work cut out for us. This was an understatement.
Let’s Get Started
I have owned my own business and ran a fleet garage for New York State before so I had a management background. I just didn’t have it in day-use areas. My philosophy was always to sit back, observe the way things were currently being run, then make changes. That’s what I set out to do here. It quickly became apparent that I would not have that luxury here.
I will not get into naming names but man were we put into a very challenging situation. We had everything from lazy and incompetent to downright insubordinate employees. I knew we would be tested as new bosses but man these people pushed the envelope. We stood our ground and over a period of time had the deadwood gone and a really good crew on hand. I must say this was made possible by the support of the upper management team (which changed shortly after we started) and the COO of the company.
Ok, Lets Talk Work
Now that we have some of that out of the way let’s talk about the job itself and what it entailed. Silver Glen Springs was a day-use area only. There was no camping. Check out our article reviewing Silver Glen Springs for a more in-depth look. Our gates opened at 8 am and closed at different times depending on the season. We had a gatehouse attendant and a day-use attendant. On busy days there were 1-2 day-use attendants and a parking lot person.
This place was busy every day in the summer season and even busier on weekends. We had approximately 98 parking spots and when they were taken we had to close down day-use until someone left. It was one car out, one car in. A typical weekend could see people waiting in line for 2-4 hours!!! There was no alcoholic beverages or glass bottles allowed in day use. It was mind boggling how many people tried to sneak in alcohol even though signs were posted everywhere.
No Dogs Allowed
Another big problem was that dogs were not allowed in day use. I never knew how many “service dogs” were in the state of Florida…lol.
Our Biggest Challenge
What was by far our biggest challenge was the boating community. If you had a boat or jet ski, you were able to come down the spring run and dock just outside the buoy line of the spring itself. Now I have nothing against boaters per se but these were the rudest most obnoxious people I have ever met. They would be drinking on their boats all day, trying to come up into day-use without paying the fee and the absolute worst part was how loud they cranked up their music.
Peace & Quiet
Most people that came to the springs were families that just wanted to BBQ and spend the day with their families. They did not enjoy the many genres of music blasting all day from the boaters. If that wasn’t bad enough there were several occasions where the music was so raunchy and the language so bad that parents and children were not only complaining to us but covering their ears. The upper management would address these issues with the forest service all the time but nothing was ever done. No one seemed to want to patrol the water.
We issued different color wrist bands that changed every day so we would know who was a paying customer and who snuck in. Another issue we had was with a particular jet ski group. They would send in two pick up trucks with all their supplies. They paid for those occupants. They would then set up in an area of the day use and spread out wide. Within a couple of hours anywhere from 15-30 jet skiers would come down the run, park, and enter the day use area via the water and try and spend the day without paying.
With the help of our now awesome crew, we were able to take care of the issues that were haunting this park. We even started getting compliments about how clean the park was and how the presence of employees had made them feel much safer. This was an awesome feeling. From cooler checks in the morning to walking around, emptying bear bins (garbage cans) regularly, and keeping the day-use area for the paying customers things fell into place.
Every now and then we would have to eject people from the day-use area. We used discretion as we wanted everyone to have a good time but some people just pushed too far. I even had a lady curse me out because she blew by the gatehouse stop sign without paying and I asked her to go back and pay. She got so mad she unleashed a string of curses. When I told her that paying was no longer an option and she would have to leave she became furious. She saw my name on my name tag and within about a half an hour she was on my Facebook page cursing me out more…lol. Delete and blocked.
The Flip Side
Ok so now that I have given you the bad stuff you will probably wonder why we stayed so long (7 months). First and foremost we loved living in the forest. During December & January, we had bears walking around like they owned the place. Being the only campers on site we had the day-use area to ourselves before and after hours. The bears were like big photogenic hams!!!…lol Manatees, owls, bobcats, deer, and wild turkeys were other great perks. We had two hiking trails (which we maintained) that were absolutely awesome!!!
Once we got rid of the initial riff-raff (some were actually not so bad they just worked under too many leads and were frustrated) we were left with some of the coolest people ever. We did lose two employees to a layoff when the winter season started and we really enjoyed working with them while they were there. Our bosses were also very cool. We had no problems with them and they actually went out of their way to get us what we asked for.
What Exactly Do You Do As A Day-Use Attendant?
If you were to work in a day-use area (no campground) your duties would be things like taking entry fees (gate attendant), parking lot control (monitoring open spots and keeping the lot free of garbage), day-use attendant (cleaning restrooms and common areas, emptying garbage, cleaning BBQ’s and grounds), lifeguard, and canoe/kayak rental attendant. As a lead you would oversee the day-to-day operations, be responsible for patrons & employees’ safety, banking & record keeping, scheduling, and inventory control.
So why did we leave? Not for the reasons you might think. Although we took abuse from the patrons on a daily basis we also met really cool ones too. Our bosses were good to us and our co-workers were awesome so that’s not it either. It all comes down to the almighty dollar. It’s not that we expected to make a million dollars an hour. We were actually ok (for the most part) with our salary except for one technicality. This company pays their seasonal lifeguards about $2 an hour more than their leads. We found that disgraceful.
While we understand there is a certification involved with lifeguarding (I was a certified EMT) the area they watched was small. They were responsible for a very small swimming area. We were responsible for the entire day-use area, hiking trails, company interests, and employees’ & patrons’ safety. We had asked to be brought up to at least the lifeguard’s entry salary and we would have stayed. The company would not do it and that and only that was the reason for our departure.
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