CLEAR LAKE, IA – This weekend couldn’t have worked out any better for our local state parks. One local park ranger says people were filing into the Clear Lake State Park about 2 weeks before the holiday to set up camp.
But as you can imagine, cleaning up after is a bit of a chore.
In the quiet days following the 4th of July holiday, some straggling campers are dragging out their fun weekend.
Camper, Randy Boggess said, “It’s a great park, one of the best I’ve been in the state.”
But for Park Ranger Josh Rembe, those four days seemed more like a week.
Clear Lake State Park Ranger, Josh Rembe said, “It’s a lot of late evenings for me. Later nights, just to make sure things are quiet in the campground. I don’t want people getting disturbed while they’re trying to sleep.”
Clear lake and McIntosh campsites were at full capacity for the holiday — a good sign for the state parks, but not so good when you’re short staffed.
Rembe said, “I don’t have as many seasonals working for me. I used to have a couple that worked at night with me. Now I’m usually by myself, so I’m trying to cover more areas that I normally didn’t have to before.”
That’s mainly because the Iowa DNR has seen significant budget cuts over the past few years.
Josh says park maintenance has been most affected.
“Mowing is kinda the most noticeable, because everyone sees the tall grass and most of the maintenance in buildings, the bathrooms aren’t as clean.”
But overall campers don’t seem to mind too much.
Boggess said, “Every place that needs to get mowed gets mowed. There’s paths through the deep grass to get to the beach and stuff. I actually think it adds to the ambience of the camping area.”
Randy has been coming to this state park for about 7 years, but this time around he’s acting as a sort of honorary ranger, volunteering to help keep the park looking it’s best.
He said, “Making sure the restrooms are kept in shape and if someone’s get a question or something, I can refer them to the ranger if it’s something that I can’t answer or if it’s something official I’ll refer them to the ranger.”
And it’s those little things that make a huge difference.
Rembe said, “We take pride in what we do, it’s just if we don’t have that many seasonals, it’s hard to check them every hour or 2 hours like they should be.”
Even with short staff, most folks are more than willing to step up and do their part. And Randy will stick around as long as he’s needed.
He said, “It’s just depends on how long they need me. I mean, I can stay here for 2-3 weeks if they need me. Whatever it takes.”
Rembe says the budget has seen a slight up-tick recently and is hoping to hire one or two more seasonal employees this fiscal year.