A county effort to bring new hosts to its campgrounds has sparked frustration and anger from the couple hosting Ruby Van Deventer Park for the past 17 years.
Tim and Denise Henry say the riverside campground was often the site for loud parties and fights when they arrived as hosts with their four kids in tow back in 2000. Since then, they say they helped clean things up, introduced folks to the novelty of camping beside the river and made the park more attractive for families.
But on Sept. 26, the county’s building maintenance department served the Henrys with a 60-day notice to vacate. The couple, who live in a park model mobile home at Ruby Van Deventer Park, must leave by Nov. 25 — two days after Thanksgiving.
“The idea (is) that after 17 years you don’t get a gold star for all the good work you did,” Tim Henry said. “You don’t get a gold watch; you don’t get any reward. We worked hard.”
The Del Norte County Parks Department also gave the hosts at Clifford Kamph Memorial Park and Florence Keller Park 60 days to vacate those campgrounds from Sept. 26.
Parks and Building Maintenance Superintendent Allen Winogradov said the agreement between the county and its camp hosts gives both parties the ability to terminate the contract.
When he became the parks and building maintenance superintendent in February, Winogradov said the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors was looking for some changes in its campgrounds. Since then, he has been working with county counsel to draft a more formal agreement between the county and its campground hosts.
“I’ve been doing enough research throughout the past almost year and it came time that we needed to give other people the chance to host these camps for us,” Winogradov said. “Camp hosts are not a place for people to live, it’s a place for people to come spend six months or a year and move on. These places were never meant to be a permanent residence.”
According to the county’s camp host agreement, in exchange for providing guest and safety services and maintenance, including keeping the restrooms clean and stocked, hosts receive a complimentary license to use one recreational vehicle site, which includes water, electrical and garbage services. The host agrees to provide a minimum of 20 hours per person per week of volunteer service, according to the agreement.
Campground hosts don’t receive a salary, Winogradov said.
The Henrys refused to sign the county’s new agreement but because the former agreement is still binding, the county has moved forward with its 60-day notice to vacate, Winogradov said. If the couple doesn’t leave by Nov. 25, Winogradov said it becomes a legal matter and would be placed in the hands of county counsel.
“Right now it’s not a legal matter,” Winogradov said. “(We’re saying) ‘We appreciate everything you’ve done for us for the past 17 years, we’re making some changes.’ But they’re not taking it that way.”
Tim and Denise Henry say their relationship with Winogradov has been adversarial from their first encounter with him in July. They said they brought their concerns to three Del Norte County supervisors, but didn’t get much of a response.
“We went to visit our supervisors as soon as this started to happen,” Denise Henry said. “(One said) ‘you live here for free.’ That is one of the most insulting things that anybody can say to us.”
According to the Henrys, being a campground host isn’t a 20-hour a week job. Campers have knocked on their door at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. needing help, they said. There have been people with trailers looking for a place to stay, especially in the summertime. Though the camp doesn’t take trailers, the Henrys say it’s difficult to turn people away.
“When you come in the door to get your food, you start taking a bite and the next thing you know someone’s knocking,” Tim Henry said.
Cindie Marcrum, who has been the host at Clifford Kamph Memorial Park for three years with her husband David, agreed the job is 24-7. She said people knock on her door at 2 or 3 in the morning.
The Marcrums will help folks who have pulled into the park, located off U.S. 101 near Smith River, with a broken-down car or other problems.
“I’ve had a houseful at different times with cars breaking down and ‘can we use your phone; is there a mechanic?’” Cindie Marcrum said. “What are you going to do, let the kids sit in a freezing car? No, I bring ‘em in. That’s part of the job in my opinion.”
In the three years the Marcrums have been the hosts at Clifford Kamph park they have built sheds and raised chickens. Marcrum said it takes more than six months to a year for a camp host to learn his or her job.
“In just a year you’re figuring out who’s who, who you don’t want in, if you’re a pushover, if you’re not,” she said.
Despite making a home for themselves after three years, Cindie Marcrum said she and her husband are ready to move on.
“We’re going to do what everybody else is doing,” she said. “Camping and playing and not 24-7 cleaning bathrooms.”