By Kathy Whaley
For just over a year now, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge has taken advantage of a program called "Workamping". Many people have never heard of workamping, but its popularity is steadily growing. In a nutshell, couples (sometimes singles) volunteer to work at a refuge for 32 hours per week, in exchange for a camping site, water, sewer, and electricity being provided to them free of charge.
Workampers are typically retired professionals, with a wealth of knowledge and skills who love to travel and simply want to "give back". So far, Hagerman has hosted five different couples, one of whom just completed their second stay; two others have already scheduled to return later in the year and in 2011.
Volunteers who work on refuges typically love the outdoors and wildlife and often travel from refuge to refuge through out the year, doing whatever work needs to be done. Usually, at least a one month commitment is required, with a maximum stay of three or four months. Kampers truly become part of the team while working at refuges - they often attend staff meetings and lunches, and have great camaraderie with refuge employees and other volunteers while accomplishing more than is ever expected.
Projects completed by workampers are extremely valuable to both Hagerman NWR and the refuge system: maintaining day use areas and hiking trails, building and monitoring bluebird boxes, staffing visitor centers, assisting with farming operations and road maintenance, mowing and weedeating, stocking brochure boxes, installing and maintaining signs - all tasks that are critical to the mission of the refuge but are often lacking due to shortfalls in refuge staffing levels.
If you enjoy camping and the great outdoors, you may want to check out http://www.workamping.com. There are positions in almost any type of environment you can imagine - state and national parks and forests, private campgrounds, motorsports events, guest ranches, historic sites, golf courses - the list is endless and offers opportunities in every state. Take a look...you might find a place meant just for you!
For more information about Hagerman NWR, see http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/hagerman/. For information about programs and activities at Hagerman, see http://www.friendsofhagerman.com/.