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Volunteers at Greenbelt Park are seeing the USA, one Park at a Time

Volunteer Mike Maxson representing Greenbelt National Park

Meet Mike Maxson, a Master Level Volunteer at Greenbelt Park, shown here helping man the park’s booth at Greenbelt’s Labor Day information event this year.

Mike retired six years ago at the age of 60, after careers in the Marines, in manufacturing, for the TSA and then as a paid seasonal ranger at Grand Teton Park and Yellowstone. He tells me the lesson he took from that gig is that being a volunteer in the parks is “a better deal” and after hearing about his life as a Park Service volunteer, I’ve gotta say it sounds like a sweet deal.

Mike and his wife Paula sold their last home in Fort Worth, Texas, put some things in storage, and are now full-time RVers. “Home is wherever we park.”


Since 2013 Mike and Paula have followed their bliss volunteering for three months at a time in such awesome parks as Death Valley, Lake Mead, and Greenbelt, where they were happy to return this summer for their second stint because there’s so much to see and do in D.C. Mike’s a history buff.

Hey, retirees, want to travel the country AND live on almost nothing? This may be the deal for you.

Not to mention that this volunteer job sounds way more interesting and fulfilling than most. (I’ve tried a few, including as docent at the FDR Memorial.) They serve as Camper Managers, helping helping visitors check in, learn the ropes, and even plan their adventures as tourists in the big city.

Mike told me this park has an unusual number of international visitors, especially from Scandinavia and Germany, many of whom ship their RV to Baltimore (through a service that arranges it, for $3,000), travel the U.S. for however they want, then ship the RV back to Europe. The campers fly to Baltimore, pick up the RV and drive to Greenbelt as their very first stop in the U.S. Greenbelt is also their last stop before heading home. Mike feels a special responsibility to these visitors.

Turns out, Americans are using similar services to arrange RV travels in Europe, on a dime. Or a euro.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

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