It’s Not “All Work and No Play” for Campground Hosts

By Donna Crane | December 23, 2021


Camping is usually an opportunity to relax, enjoy nature, and leave the world behind. For the volunteer campground hosts at Wisconsin State Parks they’re also there to work.

Elaine and Gary Zarcone learned about becoming a host at the Wisconsin State Parks from friends who were campground hosts. And although the Zarcone family went tent camping when their children were young, Elaine and Gary decided to get back into camping after they retired.

“The idea of using our camper more often, getting out to the parks and also providing service to the campers” enticed them to sign up, Gary explained.

“There were opportunities to camp host here, and so we took advantage of it,” Elaine explains about their time at Mirror Lake State Park.

As hosts, they stay in the campgrounds and act as a resource for campers; answering all kinds of camping related questions and helping campers who run into problems. Elaine and Gary often are asked to recommend things to do and see in the area.

Another of their responsibilities is to make sure the sites are cleaned before the next group of campers arrives. With both the check-out and check-in time at three o’clock each day, “it doesn’t leave a lot of time to sometimes do, you know, 20, 30 sites.” And if the weather is nice, people stay right up until three o’clock. “Sundays I’ll be working from eight thirty, nine o’clock until five or six” getting the sites cleaned, Gary adds.

But it’s not all work and no play. Elaine and Gary spend time relaxing and enjoying the usual camping activities. They ride their bikes, light a campfire, hike on the trails, and read. Both Elaine and Gary are musicians, and they take the opportunity to play together while they’re there.

The question they get asked most often from other campers is, “how do you get to be a campground host?” The Zarcones suggest either signing up on the Department of Natural Resources website, or by contacting the Wisconsin State Park where you’d like to host.

They both agree that the best part of being a campground host is the opportunity to meet new people every day.

Donna Crane

Donna Crane

Donna Crane is an associate producer and project manager at PBS Wisconsin who loves stories, traveling, and starts her day by (usually) solving KenKen, Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

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