Campground Host Volunteers

August 08, 2014 Posted by: Lina Montopoli


View of mountains from Glacier Basin Campground  Campground hosts may well be the most outgoing group at Rocky. This trait is critical for a position that requires constant interaction with visitors from all over the country and the globe. As I spoke to each host, they cited human interaction as their favorite aspect of the job, which makes this a perfect fit for the volunteers who have chosen to fill the role. An overwhelmingly welcoming, pleasant, and well-spoken bunch, they entrusted me with an assortment of fascinating and inspirational personal and job-related stories acquired throughout their time at Rocky.  

Ron and Donnine Ballance assist visitors.Donnine and Ron Ballance are in the midst of their 3rd year at Timber Creek Campground on the west side. They share a love of the outdoors, and summers in the Rockies allow them a relief from the heat of Texas summers. As a biology teacher for 32 years, Ron utilizes his background to talk to and educate campers from all over the world. Because there is so much wildlife on the west side, Donnine and Ron spend a considerable amount of time emphasizing to visitors the importance of exercising respect for the animals, especially elk and moose, who feed on the charcoal in campground fire pits in an attempt to access needed nutrients. The Timber Creek campground has unfortunately lost most of its trees to the pine beetle infestation, so the hosts are often asked to explain to returning visitors why the campground looks so different from ten or fifteen years ago. I watched as both Donnine and Ron patiently and expertly answered campers' questions, made them feel at ease, and effortlessly engaged visitors of all ages.

Campground hosts enjoying a moment of down timeBack on the east side, at the Aspenglen campground, Jackie and Kaz Hada have been working as hosts on and off for 7 years. As nomads living in their RV for the last twelve years, they have traveled all over the country, working for state parks in Alaska, Florida, Colorado, and New York. They have served in the National Teacher Corps, volunteered on trips with Habitat for Humanity, been foster parents to six children, and worked with the Red Cross to assist with relief from hurricanes Ike and Katrina. The Hada's are a peaceful and happy duo, which translates well to their work in the campground. As I talked to them about their observations of campers as a whole, Kaz told me that he feels "campers are a different breed…they're very honest," which results in well-respected and maintained campsites.

Jerome Vigil at Glacier Basin CampgroundWinding my way back towards the Beaver Meadows entrance station, I encountered Jerome Vigil, who grew up in the mountains of northern New Mexico and was drawn to Colorado thirty years ago for its similar geography. This is his seventh year as a host at Glacier Basin, and similar to the hosts at Timber Creek, Jerome answers quite a few questions regarding the noticeable absence of pine trees at the campground. For many who find the loss of pines to be disheartening, Jerome explained to me that he chooses to highlight how well the aspens are doing in an effort to balance the good with the bad.

The Sniders next to their Host siteFor my final campground stop, I spoke with Jim and Sharon Snider, whose time at Rocky began when they were the very first to ever work as campground hosts at Longs Peak. Today, they are one of three sets of hosts at Moraine Park. Jim spent many years chaperoning high school geology field studies that would wind their way out to Colorado from Ohio, and he remembers falling in love with the mountains. After retiring from his job as an elected official, he and Sharon moved to Rocky, which would become their summer home for 13 years. Jim has had to chase quite a few bears out of the campground over the years, and during the upcoming elk rut, this couple will frequently be talking to visitors about elk mating habits. A few common sentiments emerged throughout the day as I spoke with all of these incredible campground hosts. This group of volunteers is a little bit of everything: they interact and assist with Law Enforcement issues, Interpretation Ranger programs, Search and Rescue operations, and as Jerome put it, the campground hosts are often the "the eyes and ears for rangers and ambassadors for the park." Everyone I interacted with wanted to emphasize that the job of a host is perfect for them, and that they will continue to return to for as long as they are able, a fact that not only benefits each campground individually, but also Rocky as a whole.


2 Comments Comments icon

  1. Fernando Samaniego
    July 26, 2018 at 08:32
     

    You have the worst unfriendly host currently at Timber Creek Campground. I have been traveling across the country. I was kicked out of Timber Creek Campground only 10 minutes after parking and paying my fee. The Host at site #42, Roger, who has Texas license plates, has an RV larger than 30 feet. Yet, he decides to be rude and starts telling me that if he allows one RV larger than 30 feet, then he has to allow everyone. Well, this guy Roger continue to tell me there were posted signs that said no vehicles larger than 30 feet. He did not want to answer. But I have pictures of his RV which shows that he is Breaking the Law. According to the Ranger Information Station, I was told I could park my 32 foot RV at Timber Creek Campround as long as there was spaces available. Well, I puctures if my RV which shows that my 32 foot RV fits well with extra space. The Ranger was called to resolve the issue. I have to say, US Park Ranger Douglas Gillman is the most respectful and people person you can meet. The Ranger tried to help, but he could not allow me to stay. However, he took the time to arrange for my refund since I paid in full and was kicked out 10 minutes into my stay. The Ranger acknowledge that there is no Federal Regulation that makes exceptions to the posted signes. Then why did the Rocky Mountain National Park allow a host to park a larger non authorized vehicle, and forbid everyone else. Additionally, you have people traveling from all over the world. Why limit to 30 feet, when spots are available that accommodate upto 34-36 feet. I would like to have the host removed since he is also violating the posted signed. There are plenty of hosts that would love to be there. Again, Roger, the host is rude, disrespectful, and should be removed.

     
  2. d'Layne Kerr-Layton
    July 24, 2018 at 02:05
     

    I have been on the phone for 30 min listening to multiple messages trying to get a hold of a ranger about signing up for Holzwarth a Walk back in time which I need to verify when I signed up. It never offers me a human even though the message says it will after I listen to all the options. It is 100% a recorded message.

     
 
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