Monday, May 20, 2013

Being a Park Gate Attendant

Being a gate attendant for the US Army Corp of Engineers is sometimes trying! We didn’t go in without doing our research.

We are actually contractors with Our Lands and Waters Foundation who partner with the US Army Corp of Engineers. This is the web site in case anyone is interested in checking out the gate attendant bidding process (

We’ve read articles and blogs written by people that have been gate attendants. Opinions range from it was a lot of fun to we’ll never do that again.

We both have a local government background and are very familiar with all the red tape, rules and regulation that working with the government entail.

Getting a contract to be a gate attendant is no easy feat. First of all, it is difficult to learn anything about the bid process. You must bid on the gate attendant jobs as a contractor. You must be bonded by an insurance company with a VIP (Volunteer in Parks) bond.  The bond is not expensive, cost $75.00 to $100.00 per year. The purpose of the bond is for theft. We ran into a problem getting bonded because NOT all insurance companies have an underwriter that does VIP bonds. It took us a while but we finally found an insurer in Rockport, Texas.

You also have to provide your own office and cleaning supplies. The office supplies needed are minimal. We use permanent markers, ink pens, highlighters, staples, stapler and tape. One a week we mail a money order and a report to the government. We have to pay for the money order and stamp. 

Once a week we drive 17 miles to headquarters to pick supplies and turn in more reports. We have to travel the furthest distance to headquarters than the other gate attendants because we are across the lake from headquarters.

We bought cleaning supplies so that we can keep the gate house looking good. We clean windows, sweep & mop floors.

The office supplies, postage, and mileage are all tax deductible. In 2 months here we have used maybe $20.00 worth of supplies.

What we were not prepared for was the lack of training on the reservation software and the first impression of the park rangers attitudes that the gate attendants were all a pain in the butt. We have since learned that the park ranger are very nice guys and generally deal with the same gate attendants year after year.

We are the youngest gate attendants at this lake and most of the other gate attendants are older than my parents.  Most of them have been doing this for a good many years. They all seem to enjoy the work. Some of the gate attendants are full-timers and about half are not.  Some do this to supplement their incomes and some do it because they don’t care to travel during the heat of the summer.

I can tell you that the gate attendants at this lake are some of the nicest people we’ve met.
The reservation software is very easy to use. If you do have a problem, you can call any of the other gate attendants and they are more than happy to help.

We are enjoying the job. We are meeting a lot of nice folks and having a great time.
We will work from April 1st to Oct 1st. The hours are long. We work four days on and four days off. Our hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. We’ve been told that we’re only making about $2.50 per hour. That’s fine with us. We’re not really doing it for the money as much as a necessity. We had to be in this area this summer due to a few medical appointments, school dedication, and wedding and family visits. If we have to be in the area, we might as well be getting paid for it! The extra money is nice to have too.

We’re paid for each day worked once a month via direct deposit and are provided a nice roomy site and all utilizes.

We work in a nice brick air-conditioned gate house with a restroom. We have our TV and a recliner.  I’ve had a lot worse jobs for much less pay and it didn’t kill me.

I realize this kind of work is not for everyone but neither is living in an RV!

Every day is a learning experience. We’ve met a lot of nice people and some really strange people too. We are looking forward to returning next summer. After that, we might check out other Corp parks for future jobs.

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  1. That was a great post. I often wondered about the details of bidding on a job with the COE. Most of the folks that I've run into that work the gate have been very pleasant and helpful. Only one that didn't seem to want to be bothered.

  2. We're visiting a COE in AL right now and the gate people here are very nice folks. Makes me think of y'all. :-) Nice campsite for the summer too.

  3. And this is our first summer running a campground. It too is a learning experience! Glad you're having are we!

  4. Thanks for all the details.
    What may not be for all is welcome news for others.

    We love the COE sites and between the two of us we have talked about the idea of WorKamping but we are still having too much fun just adjusting to retirement and RV'ing ourselves to settle into that kind of setting. Good info for the future though.

    Have fun!

    A retired photographer looks at life
    Peter Pazucha dot Com
    Life Unscripted on Wordpress

  5. I guess the good is better than the bad, if you are planning on returning next summer. My view of these workamping jobs is that they are temporary. I give it my best, do a good job, but don't get involved in office politics and then I move on to the next adventure. I have learned several new software programs and have added some skills to my resume. It is a cheap way to live, with someone else paying the rent and utilities.

  6. Great post with lots of good information on your jobs. You seem to be handling it very well. You sure have to work long hours on word days though!

  7. Good information. Sounds like it is working out pretty well for you.

  8. Very informative post for those interested. Dennis and I don't like to stay in one place for much longer than one month, so we won't be volunteering any time soon...Those hours are too late for us. We are in bed by 9PM...but you sure have some "great diggs!"

  9. Great post! We have a friend who started her own 'business' as gate attendants for COE. I never understood why, now I know! She was going to sign us on to do that at a COE in PA, but we weren't going to be there at the time. Sounds like a decent job :)

  10. Wow, this is great information. I don't think I would like the long day though...

  11. Very interesting read on your duties. I have to agree, sometimes it's not just about the money, but it's a nice benefit. It is long hours, but it also is a great way to fill up the day.

    Glad you're having a enjoyable experience!

  12. That was truly interesting! Thanks for explaining how it works. I used to bid soil survey contracts for the Forest Service and I know how complex that whole thing can be. Congrats on landing the contract and glad you are enjoying it.