Author Topic: Seasonal Employment in National Parks  (Read 6368 times)

englishteacheralex

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Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« on: July 30, 2016, 05:12:29 PM »
So here's my situation: I'm a high school English teacher and I enjoy my work very much. At this point it pays ok considering the good benefits and time off (three months/year). Also, after 14 years, the martyrdom of teaching you hear about doesn't really apply to my life. I'm pretty efficient and don't have to use a lot of my own time (or money--I got good at doing classroom stuff on the cheap) for planning or grading. Do I want to retire early?

Well, the best time of my life was being seasonally employed at minimum wage in National Parks. Housekeeping was my main gig, although I did a lot of dishwashing/line cooking, too. Housekeeping at the resorts was an amazingly chill job. Once you got it down you could work about 4 hrs/day. Rent/food was all taken care of by paying the resort $200/month. This was twenty years ago, so the amounts are different now, I'm sure, but still a pretty easy life.

I plan on going back to that lifestyle in about fifteen years (I'll be 50). When I was a housekeeper, the living was basically free and I was actually able to save my wages. The work wasn't taxing. Great community. Two days off/week in a National Park. I'll have rental income coming in from my paid-off condo in Hawaii (that's where I live).

Anybody do the seasonal employment thing in National Parks more recently? Is it still as idyllic as I remember? I worked in Grand Teton National Park for four years.

G-dog

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2016, 05:27:05 PM »
Posting to follow. These sound like great gigs. I know a lot of snowbirds have done seasonal work in the parks. I don't know how you find the jobs, or when the best time is to look.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2016, 07:12:51 PM by G-dog »

Cannot Wait!

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2016, 05:38:54 PM »
Following.  😊

type181

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2016, 06:24:36 PM »
Coolworks.com lists different openings in the national parks. I have also thought this may be an interesting part time gig post FIRE, different park each summer/season.

Stachey

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2016, 06:59:23 PM »
This sounds very cool englishteacher.  What were the accommodations like for you? 

Metric Mouse

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2016, 04:38:03 AM »
This sounds interesting. Not looking forward to waiting so long for an update though.

mathjak107

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2016, 05:22:07 AM »
i always wondered where a park ranger goes when he wants to get away from it all .   lol

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2016, 10:11:15 AM »
There are two main ways to work in a national park. One is as a seasonal employee of the National Park Service. The other is as a seasonal employee of a park concession holder, such as food service, inns, and sometimes equipment outfitters. They are vastly different in that one is a public employer, and the other is private.

Curious which one OP english teacher was and which one they are thinking about returning to.

I took a third path in college- I was a Student Conservation Association intern at Crater Lake.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2016, 10:37:21 AM »
Coolworks.com lists different openings in the national parks. I have also thought this may be an interesting part time gig post FIRE, different park each summer/season.
"

Yep, coolworks.com was how I found my job in the Tetons back in 1998-2003. I worked at a concession resort. Not all of the resorts in the parks are created equal as far as employment goes. The one I worked for regularly took in "refugee" employees from Yellowstone. Some of the resorts are kind of slave-driving. Mine wasn't. We got two days off/week and some of the gigs (like housekeeping) had SWEET bosses who were awesome about letting us go early as long as we had gotten our work done to their liking.

The accommodations were AMAZING. Food was awesome. So awesome. I have such good memories of the food. Our rooms were old motel rooms that we had to share with a roommate and a floor of very promiscuous, rowdy, drunken young people, so totally great if you're 19, not so great at 50. However, you could also rent RV space from the park for cheap, cheap, cheap (most of the early retiree employees there--and there were a LOT of them--did that). Also, once you had been an employee for a couple of years, you were eligible for the much nicer "cabins" that we shared with other folks we knew who had been there a while.

If I worked there with my husband, we'd just share one of the junky motel rooms on a floor of crazy kids (since we have a two year old and a 0 year old, probably at that point not that different from our previous life raising teenagers?) or look into the RV thing.

This is my ER fantasy!

begood

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2016, 12:49:43 PM »
I would love to do this too! I love communal living, so the "dorm life" aspect is a plus to me. It sounds like a nice way to spend time in some beautiful spots and feel like you're contributing to the betterment of the place at the same time.

Slow&Steady

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2016, 02:56:53 PM »
Coolworks.com lists different openings in the national parks. I have also thought this may be an interesting part time gig post FIRE, different park each summer/season.
"

Yep, coolworks.com was how I found my job in the Tetons back in 1998-2003. I worked at a concession resort. Not all of the resorts in the parks are created equal as far as employment goes. The one I worked for regularly took in "refugee" employees from Yellowstone. Some of the resorts are kind of slave-driving. Mine wasn't. We got two days off/week and some of the gigs (like housekeeping) had SWEET bosses who were awesome about letting us go early as long as we had gotten our work done to their liking.

The accommodations were AMAZING. Food was awesome. So awesome. I have such good memories of the food. Our rooms were old motel rooms that we had to share with a roommate and a floor of very promiscuous, rowdy, drunken young people, so totally great if you're 19, not so great at 50. However, you could also rent RV space from the park for cheap, cheap, cheap (most of the early retiree employees there--and there were a LOT of them--did that). Also, once you had been an employee for a couple of years, you were eligible for the much nicer "cabins" that we shared with other folks we knew who had been there a while.

If I worked there with my husband, we'd just share one of the junky motel rooms on a floor of crazy kids (since we have a two year old and a 0 year old, probably at that point not that different from our previous life raising teenagers?) or look into the RV thing.

This is my ER fantasy!

I did 2 college summers in Yellowstone (2001 & 2002) and loved it!  I also got the job from coolworks.com.  I worked in Roosevelt Lodge as housekeeping/team leader, we had a couple different retirees and some teachers (not yet retired).  One of the retired couples, I remember had their own RV and so their "room & board" cost that came out of their pay was much lower than mine.  One of the teachers I remember only worked 2-3 days a week (enough to cover room & board plus some spending cash) and spent the rest of the week hiking, camping, exploring, etc.  Although I do think she had to work 4-5 days a week in the beginning until we had a better handle on things and more employees.  We also had a few that would work the summers in Yellowstone and the winters in either Grand Canyon or the Everglades.  I remember that actually had incentives to getting all the rooms cleaned early, I think we were always paid for an 8 hour day but if you got done by a certain time you got a bonus.  It worked out to be very beneficial, monetarily and personally (more hiking time), to get done in like 6 hours I think.

Although I am not sure if it is all still set up that way I think working in the national parks is a great way to FIRE!

CanyonMan

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2016, 12:50:08 PM »
First, I need the standard disclaimer: My positing here is of a personal opinion and does not reflect the views of my agency. With that out of the way:

I'm a career National Park Service employee. I will absolutely encourage NPS-related positions for part of FIRE, and I've met many people over the years who have worked Park-related jobs into their retirement plans. This year is our centennial, so there's a huge amount going on right now, including the highest visitation in history for many Parks.  My goal here is not to plug my blog, but we've got a couple articles that are relevant that I'm going to link rather than writing out info again.

There are a couple major paths.

1. NPS employee: Come work for the Service! A huge portion of the Park Service's staff are seasonal employees. If you're willing to jump through the hoops of becoming a Federal employee there are many fields you can work in. We've got an overview of the different NPS divisions on our (personal) blog about NPS life. http://ourlivesaretheirvacations.blogspot.com/2014/05/more-than-rangers-organization-and-job.html . We've also got an (admittedly crappy) infographic about the odds of getting NPS jobs, because they can be INCREDIBLY competitive. http://ourlivesaretheirvacations.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-odds-of-working-for-national-park.html

2. Concessions employee: This is the formal term for all of the Hotel\Restaurant\Gift shop\Tour Guide\Etc. Positions run by private companies under government contract. These companies hire enormous amounts of seasonal staff to run their operations in the parks. The National Park Service has around 30,000 employees at the peak of the summer. The shared dorm\hotel style housing of younger people is a huge part of concessionaire hiring in many locations, although it seems like some of these companies are focusing on bringing in cheap labor from overseas these days. Fair insider knowledge: Some of these operations have very, very bad reputations at specific sites. Do your research, and talk to people who actually work there before signing up with any of them.

The big players nationally in this game are as follows: (In no particular order)
Aramark - http://www.aramark.com/ Some Parks: Denali, Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, Lake Mead, Mesa Verde, Yosemite, Olympic,
Forever Resorts - http://www.foreverresorts.com/ Some Parks: Badlands, Big Bend, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Mammoth Cave, Rocky Mountain.
Delaware North - https://www.delawarenorth.com/ Some Parks: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Shenandoah, Olympic,
Xanterra - http://www.xanterra.com/ Some  Parks: Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Glacier, Death Valley, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain.

3. Volunteers-In-Parks (AKA VIPs): The Park Service runs on volunteers. We couldn't do it without them. We average over 250,000 volunteers per year, overshadowing our official staff 10 to 1.  Whether you have a day, a month, or an entire FIREd life, we'll happily find ways for you to help. We love putting people to work in their fields of expertise, and we have everyone from farmers to CEOs volunteering their time. We've got a little blog blip here: http://ourlivesaretheirvacations.blogspot.com/2015/12/vip-becoming-part-of-national-park.html but the NPS Volunteers-In-Parks site is a much better source of information: https://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm. They've also got a good video (Although the first audio bite is a little rough) here: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=62147905-1DD8-B71B-0B01D39DAB6AF540

4. "Other": This is the catch-all for the million-and-one things that exist around the parks. Every site is different but this could include things like flying helicopters for private tour companies (sometimes a park concession, sometimes not) or working in the hotels in the surrounding areas. NPS sites tend to have huge economic impacts on the surrounding communities, so there are generally a lot of jobs around parks that are related to tourism, but not directly tied to the parks. There are entire towns that exist as gateways to the National Parks, full of jobs (and often small-town politics) centered on the parks. Big examples are Tusayan, AZ (Grand Canyon), Gardiner, MT (Yellowstone), West Yellowstone, MT (Yellowstone), Mariposa, CA (Yosemite), or Gatlinburg, TN (Great Smoky Mountains).



If anyone has questions feel free to post them. As both a dedicated "Parkie" and a FIRE geek I think there are some good opportunities here for NPS to get some very smart people interested and for Mustachians to strategize on having one of the better jobs on the planet.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 12:51:43 PM by CanyonMan »

Northwestie

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2016, 03:39:55 PM »
My suggestion - be careful.

NPS is know as one of the worst managed agencies in the Federal system.  http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2012/12/national-park-service-still-lags-best-places-work-survey-federal-agencies22574


The concessionaire gig is typically very, very low pay dealing with crowds and screaming kids.  And most of the seasonal work is well, very boring - collecting entrance fees, emptying garbage cans, bathrooms, etc.  That said - if you want to put up with all that to get out on your time off to some cool places, it might be worth it.

As an ecologist my team gets hired by NPS for survey work - they are a strange agency.

Here's some insight into the NPS mgmt.

Uberuaga's retirement was in May, so it's hardly breaking news, and being allowed to retire with a huge SES pension is hardly accountability.  The guy who protected and promoted him and presided over years of outrages is still NPS Director.  For those with time on their hands, here's what's been happening the past few months for America's 'best idea' and worst-managed bureaucracy:

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/06/congressman-asks-national-park-service-directors-resignation

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/05/national-park-service-director-apologizes-ethics-lapse

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/08/meet-press-national-park-service-director-addresses-national-press-club

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/06/op-ed-when-it-comes-allegations-sexual-misconduct-college-sports-have-more-conscience-nps

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/07/former-effigy-mounds-national-monument-superintendent-sentenced-jail-time

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/07/national-park-service-sued-over-exploration-big-cypress-national-preserve

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/07/peer-national-park-service-ignoring-requirement-establish-visitor-carrying-capacities

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/03/groups-sue-national-park-service-prevent-hunting-inside-grand-teton-national-park

CanyonMan

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Re: Seasonal Employment in National Parks
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2016, 05:15:22 PM »
As much as it hurts to say it, Northwestie is very right about the current state of the NPS. We are a mess as an organization, but we're trying to get better. I can't speak to the quality of management, but NPS has some of the most dedicated rank and file employees I've ever seen.

All we can do at our (my) level is to work as hard as possible to try to make the service a better place. Attracting good people will hopefully help on that front, but it's going to be a long uphill battle.