State and national parks have a hosting program that benefits the parks, the hosts and especially the general public. Hosts can come from all over the country are provided with an R.V. space in exchange for their services. Hosts usually stay 30 to 90 days at a given park.
During May and June of this year, Joemma Park was hosted by Robert and Priscilla Weyna who make their home in Ellensburg. He’s a retired property maintenance manager and she’s retired from clerical support for nursing at Seattle Providence Hospital. The couple retired in 2006.
Three years ago while visiting Yellowstone National Park, they learned about the hosting program from some volunteers. They went online and found the website for Washington State Parks and decided hosting might be something they would like to do.
Both were required to submit to a full FBI background check which included being finger printed. They also attended a three day workshop that teaches what and what not a host should do, and also provides a generalized job description. The Weynas have been hosting parks for the last two years.
Duties vary from park to park. At Joemma the Weynas cut the grass, pick up trash and clean up the campsites. “The potties have to be cleaned at least twice a day,” Robert Weyna said with a smile. “Also we are the extra eyes and ears for the park rangers,” Priscilla Weyna said.
On July 1, Phil Olmstead replaced the Weyans, who returned to their ranch in Ellensburg. Olmstead is an old hand at park hosting and has been doing it since 1999.
Olmstead is a retired educator and in his own words said, “I’ve spent 25 years in the seventh grade.” He then served as vice principal and later principal at Thunderbolt Middle School near the Colorado River in Arizona.
Olmstead has hosted in parks in Arizona, Oregon and Washington. In Arizona he hosted at Katchner Caverns State Park. The caves there are limestone in nature, which means the limestone deposits are continuously growing and human fingerprints must be washed off each night to prevent permanent damage.
In Oregon, Olmstead gave walking tours at Heceta Head Lighthouse State Park. He said the lighthouse is the most photographed in the U.S. Olmstead has hosted there for six seasons.
In Washington, Olmstead has hosted in several small parks, but he prefers Joemma Beach. “I love this spot. The view and the people are wonderful,” he said.
He said the park is located comparatively close to his grandchildren.
Olmstead will be at Joemma until Sept. 1, when he’ll move back to the Oregon lighthouse and from there, who knows, he said. Olmstead loves hosting and loves traveling the country.
For information visit parks.wa.gov, or better yet, go to Joemma Beach State Park and ask Olmstead. He always enjoys talking to people.