Dallas County

Living for Free as a Texas Parks Park Host

Tyler State Park is a tranquil haven in the pines with 100-foot-tall trees that surround sparkling waters of a spring-fed lake; all of which, is Bruce Nance's backyard.

"It's beautiful," Bruce Nance said while speaking with a visitor inside the park's Silver Canoe Gift Shop.

Bruce is a volunteer here. He and his wife, Nan, are Park Hosts for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

"Ya'll enjoy your stay with us," Bruce said as the visitors left the Silver Canoe.

Four years ago, Bruce and Nan slowed down their pace and said, "goodbye" to their former life.

The Nance's sold their house in Grand Prairie, got rid of most of their stuff and moved into an RV, which is now parked at Tyler State Park.

"This is your backyard, you know, you get up in the morning like, 'Yes! Yes!'" Bruce said with a laugh. "Only regret of that is that we didn't do it sooner."

As Park Hosts, the two volunteer 24 hours a week for the park, and in exchange, they live there for free.

"When you're park hosting you don’t have an electric bill, you don't have a water bill, you don't have property taxes that you're paying so you’re saving money on that," Bruce said.

And forget gas money and toll roads when you can commute by canoe.

In his former working life, "I was a deputy Sheriff for Dallas County for 32 years," Bruce said.

There are similarities between how he served as a deputy and how he's continuing to serve as a Park Host.

"You see a job that needs to be done, whether it's people needing help or somebody doing something that they're not supposed to be doing that would affect somebody else, and you just do your job," Bruce said.

As a Park Host, he has a continued sense of pride and ownership over a place that is intended to be shared.

"This is not my state park, it's our state park as Texans,' Bruce said.

CLICK HERE to learn more about how to volunteer with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

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