How did we learn about the position at Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping?
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping regularly runs employment ads through Workamper News, our choice in organizations for seeking full time RV related work. We were work campers in northern Nevada when we saw the ad. We were looking for a gig the following summer, May through September 2016. Like many of our work camper destinations, we chose this location because it was a new place to explore. Plus, the Great Lakes were calling out to Levi’s inner scuba diving child.
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, we learned, is a family-owned campground that has seen generations of families pass through and vacation for over half a century. The over 200 acres of land and leisure were built on the American dream, one couple’s vision turned into a reality through dedication and persistence. Richard and Rose Rogala’s legacy has been passed down to their sons who have in turn begun to pass the baton to their children.
Today, family members, locals, and work campers make up the campground staff, completing projects and servicing guests from spring’s end to fall’s beginning. There are always additions and improvements going on year round, another testament to the resolved commitment of keeping Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping a memorable, safe haven for future generations of campers!
What did the hiring process entail?
As instructed in the Workamper News ad, we sent a letter of interest to the campground. Like many of our previous introductory notes to prospective businesses, the email addressed our interest in working for the park during the 2016 summer season and included our resumes and a picture of us standing in front of our rig. It wasn’t much longer (about a week) that we received a reply from the office manager. We made arrangements for a phone interview with a specific time and date
Our phone interview was more of an informational call. Ms.Newman, the office manager, detailed the various jobs that were available for us at the campground. She listed the various tasks that the outside crew undergoes, anything from construction to landscaping to electrical operations. The housekeeping and bathroom crew make sure the cabins and facilities are in tip-top shape for campers. The office, she mentioned, processes customer requests with check-ins, online reservations, and phone queries. The campground also has a store where workers continually stock items like groceries, souvenirs, camping supplies and meals/snacks including pizza and ice cream.
About half a mile from the campground is another property owned by the Rogalas, Mackinac Lakefront Cabin Rentals. This property has a little under twenty cabins and a handful of full hook-up RV sites. A few work campers are assigned to work and live in this separate park.
The Mackinaw Golf Club Golf Course is also another potential employment option for work campers. This 18-hole course is about six miles from Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, south of downtown Mackinaw City.
As far as work schedules and compensation, employees typically work five days a week, approximately eight hours a day, starting at minimum wage. Work camping couples usually work the same days but do not necessarily work the same hours. Overtime compensation is not allotted for seasonal workers. In additional to pay for every hour worked, work campers are asked to live on property. Site and all hook-ups are included in the arrangement. Uniforms are issued, as well, and include shirts and sweater jackets.
Office and store staff wore green and blue shirts/sweaters and outside staff (including housekeepers) wore grey attire.
Ms.Newman also let us know about Mackinaw City and surrounding areas, noting that a grocery store and laundromat are within a five to ten minute drive to Mackinaw City, but the closest town with more shopping variety is around fifteen miles away in Cheboygen. She asked us questions about our work experience, more specifically with camp hosting and asked about our position preference. Levi chose outside maintenance and I opted for the office but let her know that we were versatile and were open to any position. Ms.Newman took the time to answer our questions ranging from compensation to duty responsibilities. We were asked to submit letters of recommendation on top of our resumes before we were formerly offered positions for the summer.
We received an email later in December with a preliminary contract that outlined job responsibilities, compensation, and a temporary start date. We signed and returned the form. We didn’t touch base until springtime. We sent an email just clarifying start time and asked if any additional information was needed. Ms.Newman informed us that start time in May heavily depended on weather and employees would be notified of arrival times once she knew when water hookups would be turned on. Spring snow storms and freezes are all too familiar in these parts.
What were our duties?
We received the OK to arrive the first of May. We rolled into the campground mid-May and introduced ourselves at the front office. We were given directions to our campsite and a rather large envelope containing contracts and job details. Finding our way to the campsite proved easy enough, despite the size and intricacy of the grounds. It was really understanding the placement of the over 600 sites and almost 100 cabins that proved to be a challenge later during training. (It all eventually made sense.) Our site, like many of the work camper sites, was just a short walk down to Lake Huron!
After setting up, we received a phone call from Ms. Newman, welcoming us to Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping. She asked if we wanted to start working Monday (we had arrived on a Friday) to which we agreed. In the meantime, she suggested, we could use the weekend to get acquainted with the other work campers and the town. We also needed to review and sign our individual job responsibilities forms and general employee information contracts.
We met up with some of the work campers those first few days, many of which were returnees (several years in a row). They were very informative and we chatted about past seasons, local attractions and site seeing, and things to expect this year.
That weekend, we toured Mackinaw City and glimpsed the many souvenir and fudge shops down the main drag, Central Street. A quick trip to the Tourism Center down Nicolet Street and we were all set with armfuls of brochures of all things Pure Michigan. Of course, we had to cross the mighty Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula before the weekend was over and in the process stocked up on bug repellent. There are all kinds here. The icing on the cake that weekend was a snow flurry we were treated to one afternoon. We threw on our winter coats, grabbed our dog, and went on a little winter wonderland walk down to the lake.
We reported to work early Monday morning. Every morning the outside staff (including housekeeping and bathroom crew) rounded up (literally, in a circle) to discuss the day’s happenings. Groups were formed and dispersed out in the campground based on their specific task.
Before reporting to our initial outside assignment, however, we were asked to report to the bookkeeping office to complete our employee paperwork and return contracts. Ms. Newman briefly went over our official positions for the summer. I would be working in the office, training beginning the following week and Levi would be apart of the outside crew, helping with housekeeping, as needed. She added that office duty was more of a mental challenge while the outside was physically strenuous.
On our return to the campground, Levi and I were assigned to landscaping duties. We spent the better part of the week picking up twigs and branches, smoothing uneven ground, and planting trees. We’d work for four hours, break for lunch, and then continue working for four more hours. It was not uncommon to begin a day with one task and end with a completely new one before stopping for the day. I consider us moderately active; this work was substantial for us and we were sore by the end of the week.
We were split up the second week. I started training for office duties and Levi continued working outside.
Levi’s Duties: Levi was able to take part in a number of operations throughout the campground. He continued with landscaping projects for another month before moving to housekeeping and bathroom cleaning duties.
Outside he was busy digging holes for trees, fire pits, and road/site posts. He assisted with road pavement, applying chip to tar. He did a bit of weed eating and shrub trimming. He was able to suit up (in his dive wear) to set up buoys and cut down reeds within the swim area of the lake.
He worked in partners or small groups cleaning cabins and sanitizing bathrooms. The crews would gather materials and head off to designated cabins in work vans. Specific cleaners and procedures were used to ensure a cabin was ready to be rented once more.
He typically worked from 9 to 5:30 but sometimes his days were extended if his help was needed up front, at the entrance of the campground, where swarms of RVers and cabin campers were pulling in to check in. He would direct vehicles to the appropriate lanes or parking spaces to reduce traffic clusters.
At the end of the day, it was hard to dispute the fact that the outside crew and housekeeping staff had some of the most physically demanding work in the campground. Levi lost a bit of weight and gained some muscle mass in the process!
Natalie’s duties: Usually employees can take anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks completing the initial office training, I was told. Typical classes include two trainees and the trainer. There were about three groups that began their training before me and were already checking-in campers and setting up incoming requests.
My first week of office training was spent at the bookkeeping office, separate from the campground office, up to my eyeballs in campground color coded maps, RezExpert reservation protocols, and park rules and regulations. It was a lot to absorb and at times overwhelming, but it was also repeated and practiced a number of times.
I moved into the actual campground office the following week which is the first brown building arrivals see as they turn in from US Highway 23. The building has seven windows, a staff member sitting behind each one waiting to check-in guests. Office training prepares employees to be able to complete tasks necessary to take reservation requests via phone and online, answer basic campground questions regarding general rules and regulations, complete check-in and check-out procedures, use the radio to communicate with staff in other areas of the campground, run a variety of transactions including propane, and direct campers to desired locations.
I practiced more of the phone reservation process and locating the appropriate site per request before a quick run through on transactions. By the end of the second week, I was at one of the windows helping incoming customers with a variety of requests.When in doubt, I always had someone with more experience close by to verify a policy or ask for assistance on addressing a special request.
The check-in crowds began pouring in a few days before the Fourth of July and continued throughout the season (for the most part) until after Labor Day. Some days the phones had no end to ringing, online reservations were flying out of the printer, and check-ins were one after the next. It seemed like you just couldn’t catch your breath. Other days seemed a bit more manageable and there would be a little lull between phone calls. All in all, the experience helped me to become more confident with decision making and multi-tasking.
Extras: We were able to participate in a few volunteer and job tasks outside of our regular duties. A favorite past time of one of the Rogala brothers is to rebuild old and damaged vehicles. He showcases them in town during the Annual Mackinaw City Memorial Day Parade. We volunteered to drive a pickup that was rebuilt and painted to resemble an army vehicle. We were decked out in camo as we waved and smiled at spectators. That was a great way to jump start our season in Michigan.
Almost every night, weather permitting, campers have the opportunity to tour the park on the back of an old fire truck or wagon. Employees take turns driving and/or supervising passengers. Levi was able to perform both duties with the fire truck. On one occasion, we worked together on the fire truck, Levi drove while I rode in the back ushering campers on and off.
Levi was also able to dust off his magic kit and put on a little production during the Labor Day weekend. The performance was advertised with printed flyers, a lit up stage was set up across the way from the campground store, and a crowd of over two hundred campers gathered to “ohh” and “ahh” at his parlor magic. That Sunday night was a success!
What were the perks?
Compensation and Scheduling: Compensation included pay for all hours worked, starting at minimum wage. Payment via check was every two weeks. We were also provided with a full hook-up site (30 amp electric, water, and sewer hook-ups all included at no additional fee) within the campground.
We’d have the same schedule as far as days on and off, but our work schedules were not synced. Levi had a set schedule and I would come into work at various times, sometimes before 10 AM and other times after noon. This varying schedule actually helped us in the way of taking turns with chores around the house, pet care (letting the dog out to relieve herself more frequently), running errands, and preparing meals.
Location, Location, and Freebies: Having lived in Las Vegas for over a decade, the section of Michigan that we worked and visited was a completely different world to us with its own beauty and unique culture! We plan to be up in this neck of the woods sometime along the trail once again. There is simply too much that we didn’t get to see and experience!
An added benefit to working at Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping is the free and/or discounted admission to local site seeing veues. Among theses were free tickets to Mackinac Island via Star Line Ferry, free entry into Mackinaw City attractions like the Icebreaker and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, and additional free admission into the Lumberjack Show and Mill Creek Discovery Park. We also took advantage of the free Toonerville Trolley and Riverboat Tours offered to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula. This was only a mere fraction of the free and discounted surprises offered to employees of the campground!
We are constantly learning and growing with each work camping experience; Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping is no exception. As we exit the campground, we will take with us the varied tales of fellow full-time travelers, campfire talks, customer smiles, and co-worker camaraderie.