b'Some park owners have had to use job boards and cull local schools to find help, while others are Low staffing has also impacted the availability of some amenities as park staffing is too low atincreasing wages and offering other benefits. some locations to properly monitor everything.Lozano, general manager of the Royal Gorge/Caon City Kampground of Amer- Springs, Colo., said he struggled with two sets of work camper couples who com-ica (KOA) Holiday in Caon City, Colo.mitted to work for him. They either disappeared or bailed out at the last minute,Finding people is not hard. Finding the right people is a little more challeng- leaving him hanging.ing, he noted, though he said he has been lucky finding good people to work at Its been rough, he said. I had one couple I talked to. They had good reviewshis park. from their references. I hired them last fall.Clint Bell, whose family business, Kampgrounds Enterprises Inc. (KEI), owns Reed said he has learned from past experience that its a good idea to keep inseven KOA campgrounds in California, Arizona and Missouri, touch with work campers to avoid unpleasant surprises. Hes glad he did with thesaid there have been a series of unique COVID-19-related first work camper couple.workforce challenges this year. After hiring them last fall, he said, I contacted them again in November andOn the one hand, he said, there have been challenges December. I tried to contact them again later and never heard from them.getting people back to work (after the shutdowns). After the first work camper couple disappeared, Reed hired another workFor example, his familys company typically starts hiring camper couple in April. And then they called to cancel two weeks before theypeople for the summer season in February and March. This were supposed to arrive, he said.year, however, because of the state-mandated business clo- Reed said he has owned Sportsmans Campground & Mountain Cabins for 19sures resulting from COVID-19, his normal hiring cycle was years and regularly uses work campers, though he said he has encountered an in-delayed. crease in the number of unreliable work campers in recent years. There are stillClint Bell Our hiring window has gotten a lot shorter, Bell said. We good work campers out there, but they are just harder to find, he said.are in a catch-up mode. I have ended up with some fantastic ones, he said. For example, Bell was still trying to hire people in late June to fill positions in Some owners have even had to deal with employees who are taking time offguest services, housekeeping and maintenance at the Temecula Vail Ranch KOA. work due to the crisis. Mark Atkinson, owner of the Walnut Grove RV ParkoutsideThose positions normally would have been filled several months earlier. Kansas City, Kan., said that he is giving his employees the option of taking fewerAt the 225-site TripleBrook Campground in Blairstown, N.J., they have had to hours. hold back on opening the park completely due to a lack of staffing, according to We werent going to force them to take fewer hours because we want to keepIra Alexander, owner of the park.our employees, he noted. Thats why we keep them throughout the winter be-The park usually employs around 12 people, but this year the park is operating cause hiring another person and training them is hard. We did that and then busi-with a thin crew because some workers have gotten sick or are able to collect un- ness started to pick back up. One of my managers didnt want to work full timeemployment.anymore because she was making more money getting unemployment.Its been a little slow from a reservation perspective. We had a ton of cancella- I understand where shes coming from because shes a single mom trying totions early on, explained Alexander. With the COVID requirements, check-ins raise a daughter and trying to find daycare is tough right now because all the day-are much more difficult. Instead of doing three at a time, we can only do one at a cares havent opened up either, he added. time. And we dont have as many of the bathhouses open, because we dont have Atkinson said that right now his regular maintenance tasks are not getting com-the staff to clean them at the proper intervals. So, we are trying to keep it a little pleted because his staff is focused on more day-to-day issues. bit tighter than we would have in prior years. The Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Camp-Resort at Glouster Pointhad employeesThe Jellystone Park at Mammoth Cave in Cave City, Ky. was having a tough lined up at the beginning of the year but then the crisis hit and some disappeared,time finding workers even the week before the Fourth of July. according to Emily Peck, who is co-executive director of theWe are really struggling to hire people right now. We could stand to have at Virginia Campground Association (VCA) and whose familyleast another 10 employees at the moment, said Emily Rudolph Moss, who co- operates the park owns and operates the park with her parents, Bill and Kay Pott. Six of the staff members I had lined up for this summerBill Pott, for his part, said the North Texas Jellystone Park in Burleson is helping never got back to me. I told them I would let them know ashim train the lifeguards he needs for his parks water features, which opened June soon as I could hire them. They all said, okay, great. And then29. as soon as that date came around, I emailed, I called, and IThey are going to send their lifeguard trainer up here to train and certify more got nothing back she explained. I dont know if they movedlifeguards for us, Pott said. With their gracious help, we are currently expecting on to other jobs. People had no idea what was happeningto be able to open the Wibit sports park on July 4 if all goes well and nothing else next, so they were just taking whatever jobs came around orpops up to interfere. Emily & Brandon Peck they were filing for unemployment.At Rushmore View RV Campground in Keystone, S.D., Diana Spezman, man- Some parks may feel even more of a sting as Labor Day rolls around dependingager of the park, said competition for work campers has be- on when kids go back to school. come intense since J-1 students are not available and national Typically, that is when our J-1 students would fill the gaps, noted Johnson.and state parks are also competing for workers.This year it will be all hands on deck, and no one will be above cleaning a rest-I can speak with a work camper and they will have 10 dif- room or delivering firewood.ferent offers on the table, she noted. Right now, our bathhouses are closed because we just dont have the staff to clean Recruiting Challengesthem at the moment. Instead, theowners Woodalls Campground Management (WCM) consultedAt Elk Creek Campground in Grand Lake, Colo., Rebecca said it can be challenging to find workers in todays market. Dean, owner of the park, said she has had to settle for fewer I do most of my advertising on Facebookthrough work camper pages or I dowork campers than normal. Along with her husband and son, want ads for local people on our business pages, explained Alan Spencer, ownerDiana Spezman they are picking up the slack.of both the Sioux Falls KOA and the Wisconsin Dells KOA. Its just taking someWe had one set of work campers who couldnt come because the stock market creative hiring on our end by offering people the flexibility to work the times thathad crashed and they said they needed to settle back down and find solid jobs, work for them. I usually house J-1s. This year I dont have J-1s, so Im housing theshe explained. Another young couple was looking for a steadier position that of- local housekeepers in Wisconsin. They get to save money on rent and thatsfered more hours. They landed at a state park that was offering them 40 hours a worked well for us. Also, I have implemented wage increases as well to maybeweek even though the park wasnt open yet. attract some people. Its mostly being creative to bring people in to work for us,Jon Reed, who owns Sportsmans Campground & Mountain Cabinsin Pagosa which has worked fairly well up to this point.WOODALLSCM.com August 2020-15'