We have now completed our tenth different volunteer position. At this location we worked with the Florida Game and Fish Department. We worked for the biologists. The Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is about 52,000 acres and this check station is the control point for about 28,000 of them. There are five campsites here with two of us arriving on Sept. 16, a third about Oct.1, the fourth about Oct. 15 and the last on Nov. 2. We have 50A power but the other four sites have only 30A. All sites have water & sewer as well as a nice level gravel pad, a table, and large site. And a phone line is available at all sites if you wish to pay the bill and get it connected. We are located about 1/2 mile off of the highway and about 14 miles south of Holopaw, Fl. where highway US441 separates from US192. Holopaw is about 20 miles east of St. Cloud, Fl. on US192 or 35 miles from us and that is where the nearest grocery stores are located.
This is a pretty location, very far out in the country, very quiet, and peaceful. If you should wish to come here you need to realize that everything is a long way from you. To visit any attraction in Florida, you will have to drive at least one hour. But for those of us who enjoy solitude, this is the place!
The duties here are the operating of the check station, and routine maintenance on your site and the grounds. Maintenance work can be done during the time spent as check station attendant. When there were only two couples here we each operated the check station from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM, two days per week. The operation of the station only requires two people for a couple of hours at each end of the day, so Pam did house work and laundry on those days and I would do any maintenance needed as well. The station would be manned by which ever of us was not doing other things. Once the third couple arrived, we went to a rotation of each couple operating the check station in rotation. With five couples, it becomes just over one day per week. The hours are long, but the work is not at all difficult. And the WMA staff are there to train you and assist if needed. You do learn to do some rather different duties in this position.
The check station operators check each hunter into and out of the area to hunt each day, as well as checking all game that is brought out. For wild hogs and turkeys that just means weighing it and if impressive, taking a picture of it. For deer there is a little more as you also are trained to measure the antlers for scoring and to remove one jaw bone for aging the animal and you also attach a game tag for the G&F department. The operator is taught how to do this by the staff.
In the three months we were here there were several special seasons. The first was for archery hunters, but the most interesting was a four day special hunt for the mobility impaired hunter. Many of these hunters were completely unable to walk without assistance. The hunters were, for the most part, a very friendly bunch and we made many new friends while here. We were even given game meat for our own use on several occasions. We also had some rather interesting neighbors!
Work-camping: While we did enjoy our time here, this area was not without it's negative aspects. The water here has a very bad taste and all of us used bottled water for drinking and it also would leave stains on some white clothing if hot water was used in the washing machine. For us, the greatest problem was boredom. After the first few weeks, we found that most days would drag from lack of anything to do. One can only read so long! The weather was warm, very warm at first but pleasant in November and December. The staff and management are friendly and helpful, but the program is poorly managed. It is also 38 miles, one way, to the nearest shopping. On the other hand, you are only about 90 minutes drive from Disney World and if you get an annual pass you can really see and enjoy that place. The Kissimmee area has many tourist attractions. And if you are a square dancer, St. Cloud has two very friendly clubs for that. While we have no regrets about having gone here, we could not recommend it to others with out some reservation.