Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I've been wanting to write about this for a long time now! I'm glad that I am FINALLY getting to it - just as the season is winding down. Sheesh!

My idea in posting -- A day in the life of a Park Facility Operator -- is to first, let you know about our job - just in case it is something you MAY want to do one day, and second to let you know when you are camping what the Operator's DO ALL DAY. Much of our work is behind the scenes -- it is a challenging job -- I wonder if campers knew exactly how hard we really do work they may be a teeny tiny bit more appreciative.

This could probably be said for all sorts of jobs out there - right! Walk a mile in my shoes......

The idea for this post came from one that Derek and I did while we owned our old fashioned Sweet Shoppe in Saskatchewan in 2006. We were featured in Our Canada magazine. In each issue this magazine features someone's - a day in the life. We originally contacted the magazine in the attempt to get some coverage for the town of Mortlach where we lived and had our shop. At the time there were many little tourist shops and we were hoping to get some much needed coverage for the tourist season. We were invited by the editor to be an upcoming - a day in the life. It was fun and a HUGE success - it brought a lot of people off the highway and into our shop and to the other businesses in town. We could have never paid for a such an advertisement and this was free!

Anyway - back to the subject at hand.

Here's a bit of info. Derek and I are paid to work for five months - April 30 to September 30. We are the Operators of two Provincial Parks - Skihist and Gold Pan. Our bosses live about approximately 1 1/2 hours away. They come as required to fix or maintain or to bring supplies. Generally, as long as work gets done they let us figure out who does it and when. Derek and I have divided the tasks based on what we can or like to do.

Skihist PP has a day use area with a parking lot, grassed area with picnic tables, 2 garbages, a washroom building - 4 flush toilets and 2 sinks, and a pit toilet. Skihist also has a sani station near the highway with 2 garbages, a washroom building with 4 flush toilets and 2 sinks, and a pit toilet. Skihist also has a 58 site campground with 3 washroom buildings - so 12 toilets and 6 sinks, 1 pit toilet, and 8 garbages.

Gold Pan is 20 km (15 miles) away. We are paid to go there once a day and do so in the early evening. I go 99% of the time - I think out of the 157 days we worked Derek has gone 2 times. When I'm there I clean 5 pit toilets, check 6 garbages, clean sites - rake and clean out firepits. I also check the self registration envelopes and register those that haven't registered. I also sell firewood.

Our job requires a whole lot of tasks and multi tasking. Between the two of us we provide all the maintenance, janitorial, security, registering, accounting, tourism, rule enforcement, and so on.

Some tasks are done everyday - such as cleaning and registering, others are done every few days such as the accounting, and others are done weekly such as lawn mowing and weed whacking and checking the traffic counters and water pump.

I've decided to show you a day in which most of the tasks are completed - because some days to include almost everything!

Here we go......

6:00 am - Derek's alarm beeps and he's on his feet. He enjoys his coffee and smokes for about 20 mins.

6:20 -  7:00 am - Derek walks down and opens the Skihist gates. He then walks across the highway over to the day use. He unlocks and cleans the washroom building and checks the garbage. On his way back to the cabin he opens the day use gates.

8:00 am - Cassia and I get up. Cassia plays or watches one of her movies. Derek pours me a cup of coffee. I am no good to anyone until my coffee! I spend my coffee time checking my email and facebook.

8:30 am - Breakfast - either made by Derek or myself - we tend to take turns. Eggs - bacon - toast - and a smoothie every day. I know - I know - a big breakfast - but hey we are on our way to some very physical work for the next few hours.

9:00 am - Cleaned, dressed and ready to go to work. Cassia usually brings some toys with her to keep her entertained in the truck. She also walks around with us - helps clean or climbs the rocks at the sites.

9:00 am - 11:30 am - It generally takes us this much time to clean the Skihist campground - some days less time - some days more - depends of course on how busy we were the night before. Derek and I both rake sites, I clean the 3 washroom buildings and 1 pit toilet and we both do the garbages and recycle bins. I counted the steps for several sites and came out with an average of about 350 steps per site! We rake anywhere from 5 to 20 sites each - every morning - that is A LOT of walking!

The bear proof garbage containers - the back panel is pretty heavy - it is a work out for my arms for sure!


This was a pretty easy example - the car just drove in and out again. Most sites have A LOT more use after one evening - many RV/car tracks and foot prints. Usually I am just to darn tired to stop and take a photo after 10 mins of raking. To rake a site we go back and forth lengthwise from one side to the other. We circle the picnic table and the fire pit with the rake as well.

One of the washroom buildings and garbages in the Skihist campground.

11:30 am - 12:00 pm - Go back down to the service yard (where our cabin is located) - empty the collected garbage bags from the back of the truck into the garbage trailer. Clean out the back of the truck, take out the recycling bags, and load wood into the truck (we have a pile of wood here delivered by our boss - we have to load it into the bins that we sell).

12:00 - 1:00 pm - Lunch time! Our lunches are usually pretty large - such as hamburgers - because we are very hungry! And very tired! We also check our email and spend some time on the internet.

1:00 - 2:00 pm - Derek does odd jobs. Sometimes he goes back out to mow the lawn or weed whack. Some days he doesn't come up to the campground with Cassia and I and instead spends the entire day on the lawn. Can't say I love those days!

The lawn over at the day use. We also have a 2 large stretches of lawn over on the Skihist side. During May, June and July Derek spends a lot of time mowing and weed whacking. He also weed whacks at Gold Pan. 

FIRST! We have to go and pick up all the pine cones. A VERY VERY difficult job - it kills our necks, backs and stomachs! Most definitely our LEAST favourite task.

1:00 - 2:00 pm - I either play with Cassia or I do some baking/cooking. Every Wednesday Cassia and I go to the library and Derek takes the garbage to the dump north of Lytton and fills the truck with gas.

2:00 - 4:00 pm - Nap time! This worked so much better last year when Cassia was still 2 - she doesn't nap as much these days but Derek and I HAVE to nap to be able to make it the rest of the day. Cassia has become pretty good at quietly playing by herself but she usually ends up napping as well.

4:00 pm - We're all up again and either sitting outside, watching or playing with Cassia, spending time on the internet.

4:30 pm - Time to get dinner started!

5:00 - 5:30 pm - Dinner time.

5:50 pm - I'm back in my uniform on my way out the door. During the spring and fall I need to leave at about 5:30 with the sun setting early. During the busy summer months 6:00 is ok. I check all the supplies - cleaning, toilet paper, garbage bags, and paper work in the truck and load wood if we hadn't done it in the afternoon.

Here's my office and second home for the season - most nights it doesn't look even close to this clean and organized!

While I am away during the evening - Derek cleans up from dinner, spends time playing with Cassia, baths her, reads to her and puts her to bed.

6:00 pm - I drive up the hill to the campground. I stop at the self registration station. I check the envelope supply - load more if necessary and empty the vault with all the filled out envelopes. I go through each envelope to check camper information on the front, I check and take out the fee and put all the envelopes in order of the site.

The Skihist self registration station.

I then drive around the campground. During the summer we had camp hosts who assisted with marking the tags on the site posts. I check to make sure that for every post with a tag I have the corresponding envelope - if not I stop and talk to the camper about the envelope. Some times they don't make it down to the box and still have it with them. In the absence of the camp hosts - such as now in the fall - I stop at each site and mark their tags - we write two numbers - the first is the number of days they have paid for and the second is their departure date. I also answer any questions that campers have and sell firewood from the back of the truck. I carry the bin of firewood to the fire pit - dump it out - collect the fee and carry the bin back to the truck.

All the while I am also looking out for the breaking of rules - such as collecting firewood from the forest, parking in the forest, erecting a tent in the forest, extra vehicles, dogs off their leash, generators on outside of allowed times, etc. I am the one responsible to stop and discuss the infraction with the camper. I usually take a friendly approach to start - and it usually works. If not I issue a warning and after that the ticket book comes out. Skihist is usually pretty good - unfortunately I have had to call the police out to GP three times this summer. One based on having to issue an eviction notice.

6:20 pm - I try to make this first trip around the campground as fast as possible - I still have to get to Gold Pan.

6:35 pm - Arrive at Gold Pan. Park at the self registration and check envelope supply and go through self registration envelopes - exactly as I did at Skihist.

Once a week I stop at the traffic counter box and note the tracking number.

6:40 - 8:00 pm - I have a very concise routine at Gold Pan - I do things the same way every night. I clean the first two pit toilets and then check the first garbage. I then head to the right to the first 5 sites - I mark the tags with the dates or register those that haven't self registered. I also answer questions and self firewood. Along the way I check the two garbages - empty if necessary and clean and rake sites as required.

Looking north at Gold Pan - the first two pit toilets on the right.

The other three pit toilets - I have to park and carry my supplies up to them.

This year Gold Pan was included in BC Parks survey. So every night since the beginning of June until the September long weekend I had to survey either one or two camping parties per night. I completed a total of 100 surveys!

Once the right side is done I head over to the other side for the remaining 9 sites. Check registration - empty garbage, clean sites, pick up litter and clean 3 pit toilets.

Once done I head back to Skihist. Head first to the day use to stop at the traffic counter.

8:15 pm - Once back at Skihist I stop at it's traffic counter.

8:17  pm - I now stop and clean and stock the washroom building at the sani station/rest area - so 3 toilets, 1 urinal, 2 sinks and 2 garbages. As required I also mop the floors - as with all the washrooms/pit toilets. Check the area for litter and check - and almost every night during the summer - empty the two garbages.

The sani station at Skihist.

8:35 pm - I pass by the service area and our cabin and head back up to the campground. I repeat the same steps as when I went up at 6:00 pm. Check registration, mark tags, sell wood, answer questions, and enforce rules.

8:50 pm - Once done I head home. Every fourth night I do the accounting for the previous four nights. My online paper work has 4 nights per sheets so that is why I do it that way. I separate the envelopes by date and campground. Nights I'm not doing accounting I either hang out on the internet - post on our blog or sit by the fire with Derek.

9:00 pm - Derek walks with Roofous over to the day use - he locks the washroom building and the main gate.

10:00 pm - Go back up to the campground to register campers. When it is dark most campers don't register so I stop by their site and do it manually. I then return home.

11:00 pm - I drive down to lock the campground gate. I then go back up to the campground to register additional campers. On very busy nights I also check the toilet paper levels in the three washroom buildings. I also check camping party volume levels - 11:00 pm is quiet time. If I find that a group is very loud - as it whopping and such - I'll stop and talk to them.

11:20 pm - Return home. Write down my milage, grab the nights envelopes and head to the cabin.

12:00 am - Just getting into bed and grabbing my book. Derek goes to bed too. He has spent the evening by the fire or on the internet. This is our only real alone and awake time without out Cassia. The nights we are sitting by the fire we talk about the day - the campers or just stuff.

12:30 - 12:45 pm - My light is out!

And that's our day - every day for 157 days this year! It only changes for 2 days out of the month when we go to Merritt - 1 hour and 15 mins one way for groceries. We skip the morning cleaning but from dinner on everything is the same.

So the next time you are at a campground and see the Operators driving around and wonder what exactly they are up to - that's it. Interestingly it seems that a lot of campers think that we are just there to register them and talk but really that is a small part of what we do. I do try to stop and talk to a few campers since I KNOW that that's what they are waiting for - and it IS a nice part of the job in many cases - but I am always conscious of trying to keep on schedule and on task.

No sweat  - right?!

All for $11 per hour, 40 hours a week for each of us - no overtime and of course - no benefits.


TODAY'S INTERESTING LINK: I know I've linked BC Parks before - but here it is again in case you too want to put yourself to this kind of test. To apply just find the park you would like to work at - go to the park's page and look on the left side - the Contractor's name and contact info will be listed. Send in your resume and wait for the call.


  1. Interesting. Lots of work for not much money...but we could still be tempted to sign up for a season!

  2. A real eye-opener that's for sure!

    Lots of work, but at least you are in beautiful surroundings

    I sure hope the campers treat you with the respect you to deserve

    I definitely wouldn't rule out being campground hosts !!

    Take care… TnT

    1. Yup! That's why I wanted to make sure I got this post up - as with many jobs there is a ton of stuff people don't see - right!?

      Definitely BEAUTIFUL!

      Respect isn't all that common these days - it's kind of gone the way of common sense.


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