Work Campers See Good Fit at Texas Parks
Some campers at The Vineyards Campground on Lake Grapevine near Grapevine, Texas, are there for more than just a good time.
They have parlayed their visits into part-time jobs that help support their lifestyles as full-time recreational vehicle campers, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Two of them are Rosie and Walt Bullock, who on a recent rainy day were staffing the entrance gate, taking reservations, selling season boat-ramp passes and collecting campground fees. They have an annual contract with the city to work three days on and seven off in exchange for a stipend and free use of a camping spot with water, sewer and electrical hookups.
They also act as impromptu tourism ambassadors.
"We try to keep them informed about Grapevine," Rosie Bullock said.
Fifteen gate attendants and camp hosts take care of The Vineyards Campground and the camping areas in Meadowmere Park for the city's parks and recreation department, said Joe Moore, assistant director of parks and recreation.
Most of the people tending the campgrounds are living as couples in their RVs, he said.
Their stipends run anywhere from $70 to $100 for a day of work.
"Work camping" is common and is done chiefly to help fund the RV life, said Linda Profaizer, president of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC). The work conditions are usually good and appeal particularly to couples, she said.
"They are rather flexible in their work schedules, and it's an opportunity for the husband and wife to work together," she said.
Neil Bernstein, a retired Houston police officer, was washing sheets from the campground's rental cabins on a recent afternoon. He works at the campground while living with his wife, Janice, in a 36-foot fifth-wheel trailer.
Bernstein said they travel from campground to campground. At some places they have a contract for the work, and at others it's a less formal agreement.
"We'll probably spend the summer in Bethel, Maine," Bernstein said.
The Vineyards campground is pretty quiet. People come to relax for a while and move on, so not much trouble occurs, he said.
The Bullocks are former residents of El Reno, Okla., where they had a home for 30 years.
In 1997, five years after Walt Bullock retired from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, they traded their home for a life on the road and at the campgrounds of America.
They've worked in other campgrounds, but The Vineyards is their favorite, they said. They have a contract through October with an option to renew for two more years.
Walt Bullock said people from all over the world show up in Grapevine.
"You have to be bilingual plus," he said.
During the Byron Nelson Championship, the late-April golf tournament at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, it's common for the pros to stay in their motorhomes or trailers in the campground, Walt Bullock said.
The campground does a steady business even in the fall and winter, but the summer can get crazy, he said.
"This is an awful slow time, so it's relatively easy," Bullock said.
The 52-acre Vineyards has about 70 camping spots, mostly for recreational vehicles.
The campground is expected to gross about $550,000 this fiscal year, averaging about $46,000 a month, said Moore. Last year, the campground was shut down for three months over the summer because of flooding. So 2007 will probably be just a break-even year, Moore said.