‘Concierges in a Hotel Without Walls’ Retiring
Since 1988, the Canadian couple has motored down to North County from their home in Kelowna, British Columbia, to live and work as volunteer hosts at the San Elijo campground during the winter months, the North County Times, San Diego, reported.
Now, after 23 years, the Nuttalls are retiring at the end of the month to spend more time with family and to travel. Still, they said, leaving the campground where they’ve spent so many seasons will be bittersweet.
“We’re really going to miss all the wonderful people,” said June Nuttall, 79. “We’ve created a lot here, but what we’ll miss the most is the people.”
According to Bill Mahoney, founding board member of the Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches, the Nuttalls are the longest-running volunteers in the history of California State Parks.
“San Elijo State Beach is a far better state park today because of their efforts,” Mahoney said. “Frank and June made San Elijo a more beautiful place for families to enjoy and they helped a countless number of campers over the years.”
Though the couple have done everything from cleaning restrooms and notifying park rangers of disturbances to gardening and patrolling the grounds, Frank Nutall, 84, said he has always thought of their role as a “concierge in a hotel without walls.’
He said they are often asked where the best restaurants are in town or what visitors should see and do to get the most out of their trip.
On one of their several daily walks around the campground — or on their frequent treks from their 1971 Airstream trailer to the camp store or Bull Taco — the Nuttalls chat with old friends and welcome new ones.
They’ve helped build the impressive reputation of San Elijo, said Stan Stainley, who with his wife June also volunteered for a time as campground hosts and now live in Shingle Springs.
“(The Nuttalls) make it gorgeous here,” Stainley said. “They’re always working hard.”
Brad Krey, who worked as a park aid at San Elijo from 1996 to 2000, said he can remember the Nuttalls bringing him warm pot roast or soup on cold nights when he manned the kiosk at the campground entrance.
“They were always a big help,” Krey said with a smile, adding that the couple was “a big influence on me to become a park employee.”
June and Frank Nuttall first visited San Elijo as campers nearly 40 years ago. At the time, they were on vacation from the furniture manufacturing business they owned in Canada.
“We came along Highway 8, then 5 and saw this place and said, ‘We’ve gotta camp here,'” recalled Frank, adding that after two weeks, they started gardening on the grounds as a way to thank the rangers for letting them stay longer.
The couple started volunteering as camp hosts many years later.
Frank said that as hosts he and his wife used to plant bulbs and cuttings donated by local nurseries in the common areas of the campground, and that they even planted the majestic palms that still guard the entrance.
“People come here from all over the world and they want to see palm trees and color,” he said.
The couple also dug out the chrysanthemums and colorful ground cover when — years later — it was decided by the parks administration that the landscaping should include only native plants.
“When the daffodils came up, they told us we could only plant native plants,” Frank said. “And I told them daffodils are native — to Holland!”
The Nuttalls, who have been married for 63 years, said in retirement they’ll looking forward to spending more time with their two sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in Canada.
“We’re sad to be leaving, but our granddaughter Amber, who is 12, really wants us home,” June Nuttall said.
The couple also plan to do some traveling, including a bus tour along the Silk Road between the Middle East and China.
The Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches is hosting a farewell luncheon for June and Frank Nuttall on Feb. 17, at 1 p.m. at the campgrounds. Members of the community are invited.
Anyone wishing to donate something for the event or share a photo or written memory for the Nuttalls can contact Bill Mahoney at bill@FCCSB.org or at (858) 603-2705.