A guest post BY LEVONNE GADDY
Levonne is an artist and author of several blogs about her family’s three-year relocation adventure from the U.S. southwest to California during the Great Recession. During that period, they volunteered as park caretakers and campground hosts and lived in some of California’s public parks.
Hearst Castle © Levonne Gaddy
My husband John and I have lived in our thirty-foot Jazz fifth-wheel trailer for three years. If it had not been for beautiful public parks, my sacred camera and my equally sacred laptop computer, I don’t know that I could have made it.
Our original plan when we hit the road three years ago was to find meaningful work and a community that we would love on the Central California coast. We left a comfortable home, jobs and a known community to relocate after fifteen years in the U.S. Southwest. We left in the midst of the 2008 Great Recession.
Having been enthusiastic recreational vehicle campers to Central Coast California for over twenty years, we felt adequately qualified to decide that we wanted to be permanent California residents. Our positive exposure to camp hosts in public parks over the years led us to pursue volunteer camp host jobs as a way to give something back to the communities we loved and to anchor us in our transition.
Camp host duties usually include providing campers with information, doing camp checks to make sure visitors have paid their fees, staffing visitor centers and museums and general cleanup around campgrounds. Most hosts work approximately 20 hours a week and in exchange are provided with a full-hookup campsite during their stay.
Annadel © Levonne Gaddy
When we arrived in California in the fall of 2009, a state budget was being negotiated. A partial remedy for the $26.3 billion state budget deficit was a plan to close 220 state parks.
John and I were quite happy when funds were found to keep the state parks open. We were able to live-on volunteer at several parks including Oceano State Park in the Pismo Beach area, Morro Strand State Beach in Morro Bay and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Big Sur.
As fulltime RVers and California parks volunteers, I took great pleasure in photographing the beauty of the parks and in writing about our experiences in my blogs at www.levonnegaddy.com.
I am currently engaged in a campaign to raise funds so that I may turn stories and pictures into a book that I will use to raise awareness about California parks. In addition to park closures, there are other very real challenges. Some of those challenges are habitat destruction by overuse; protection of native species at the expense of recreation; and reclaiming industrial brown fields to create new parks in dense urban areas.
In September (2012), current Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that averted closures yet again. AB 1478 placed a two-year moratorium on state park closures. That means that in less than a year and a half, closures will be at issue once more. I am happy to do my part to help save our wonderful public spaces in California.
Pfeiffer Big Sur © Levonne Gaddy
You may go to California State Parks Foundation http://www.calparks.org/takeaction/parkclosures/ to learn what you can do to help save our parks.
To learn more about my book project, please see “This Restless Life: a study of Central Coast California parks through photography, interpretive collage and stories” on Kickstarter.
50% (up to $1,000) of the amount raised over Levonne’s funding goal will go to California State Parks Foundation. Be sure to check out Kickstarter!