By Julie M. Lucas

NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs

Mild winters and year-round sunshine make Florida an ideal spot for retirees. Waterfront views paired with that excellent weather make Naval Air Station Jacksonville's RV Park one of the best places for ID cardholders to hitch up to.

The NAS Jax RV Park is nestled along the St. Johns River and boasts 38 full hook-up sites to include sewer and six tent campsites. All sites have water and electric hook-ups. Sites come with picnic tables, which 25 of them are new this year and the rest are being replaced soon.

Reservations can be made one year in advance for active duty and six months for retirees. Specific site locations are assigned the day of check-in. Before taking your RV to the park, check in to the Auto Skills Center, Building 622 at the corner of Birmingham Avenue and Jason Street. Their hours of operation are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, except holidays which are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Check in time is 2 p.m. and check out time is 11 a.m. For after-hours check-ins, campers should view the white board at the bathhouse for available sites. 

For those interested in serving as camp host, there are no rental fees but you must work in exchange to live at the park. The current host is located in site number 31. Potential hosts can apply and go through an interview process.

"Being the camp host means you are the eyes and ears of the park," said Mike Pierce, who has been serving as current host for nearly six months who will soon turn over the job. 

During the winter holiday, Pierce put up Christmas lights and built a flowerbox to go below the RV Park sign. He swaps out seasonal flowers. 

When entering the site off Birmingham Road, you will see the bathhouse. The women and men's bathrooms include shower stalls. The bathhouse also features a free laundry facility with five washing machines and five dryers. Facility information is posted at the bathhouse, along with a vending machine. The camp offers free WiFi. The newest addition to the park is the deck and swing area built by the Seabees behind the bathhouse. 

The NAS Jax RV Park is not simply a stopover for snowbirds. The park serves as a recreational home to many for different reasons. Some stay in the park because they are here on temporary assignments. Others stay in park because they are in-between housing.

"Our home sold very quickly and we are currently building another home," said Season Hodge, who is very thankful for the park option.

"On Reserve drill weekends, all tent sites are completely full as many Reservists choose to camp out here," said Pierce. 

Important rules to take note of are that all wastewater must be dumped at the dump station and no discharge of sewage or gray matter is spilled onto the ground, pavement or in the storm drains. Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. Barbecue grills are allowed, but all ashes must be extinguished before disposing. All fires must be contained and there are no fire rings. Fire pits above ground are acceptable for camper use. 

Pets must be leased whenever outdoors and under control at all times. No pets may be left outside unattended and owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets. Overflow parking is for vehicles only.

A trail has been created in the trees near the shoreline for family adventures. Some upcoming changes include site number 19 will soon become a future location of a pavilion for park use near the water. 

Propane is available at the Autoport in Building 429 next to the gas station, Mondays-Saturdays. Ice can be purchased at the Mulberry Cove Marina, along with rental of numerous outdoor gear. 

Other notable things to remember about the park include observing the speed limit, which is 5 mph. 

"We often have kids playing outside and don't need people throwing the gravel around because we live here," said Pierce.

Reservations can be made in person at the Auto Skills Center, by phone at (904) 542-5898, or online at dodlodging.net.