The headline reads, "Campground Hosts: Volunteers spend summers on government's dime" at the Camp Verde Bugle. Citing a long-time volunteer in the Prescott National Forest, the article implies that Dave Underwood is getting a smoking deal for free! The article says, "For volunteering to keep an eye on things and make sure everyone is comfortable, Underwood is provided an RV spot, complete with running water, electricity, propane and sewage disposal -- all free -- from the first of May to the end of October."
What the article doesn't say is the value the government gets in exchange for their site. Plus not all sites have such amenities. Many lack electricity and propane may not be included either. If the government had to pay an employee to do the same tasks, it would far exceed the value of the site. At even $10 an hour for 40 hours (and many hosts are effectively on call 24/7), they would pay $400/week or $1730/month plus ante up extra for benefits. Is that site worth $1730 a month? Hardly. You could live in a resort with a pool, hot tub and bocce ball for less than that. (See"What is a campsite worth?" to see how value can be figured.)
According to an AARP study, 80 percent of Americans 45 years or older volunteer in some capacity. They volunteer 8.2 billion hours a year, which is worth more than $147 billion. That's money the government and organizations do not pay out yet value they receive.
To imply that RV volunteers are taking advantage of taxpayers by getting a free site is misleading, to say the least. Sure, a site is nice and allows RVers to stay in an area they want to be in. But they are giving back way more than what they are paid. Most volunteer positions for the federal government require a minimum of 32 hours to receive a site. Many volunteers put in much more time than that. Volunteers reduce the paid workforce by handling many tasks that would have to be handled by a paid employee or go undone. Plus, these hosts are deterrents to major damage and trashing the area that would take place without an official presence. They put out campfires left smoldering or enforce the no campfire rules when fires are dangerous. I could go on. The government - and taxpayers - are getting a deal.
Does this strike you wrong too? Or do you have a different take? Leave a comment and let us know where you stand. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak