'Paradise' getaway close to base
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Residents of FamCamp enjoy indoor exercise at the facility’s recreation center during winter months. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lisa Norman)
by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Rojek
325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/11/2006 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Tucked away on the west end of Tyndall, a heavily-wooded area stretches along the waters of Pearl Bayou. Some call it "Paradise." Most know it as FamCamp.
A year-round benefit for active and retired military members, the 325th Services Squadron's Fam-Camp offers 91 camp sites with RV hook-ups, a recreation center, a nature trail and a way for people to get away from it all while being right near base.
"Once you're here, you're not just three or four miles from your home - you're in a different world," said Samantha Long, Tyndall's FamCamp manager. "You forget that you're on base. You're just in the woods, by the water."
During the summer, most campers make their way out to the nearby beaches or rent boats from the 325th SVS Outdoor Recreation office. In winter, however, FamCamp offers plenty of activities to keep campers and their families occupied.
The recreation center, located in the middle of the camp, has a billards table, big screen television and wireless Internet access. It is here where campers gather to play bingo, cards, perform aerobics, take a computer class or eat potluck dinners.
For people looking for outdoor activities, FamCamp's nature trail stretches along Pearl Bayou and into the woods surrounding the camp. Here, hikers can see the flora and fauna that make up the Gulf Coast. A map at the head of the trail shows where one may encounter different animals or plants, and signs along the trail have pictures identifying native species.
"You don't have to camp here to use the trail," said Mrs. Long. "But we require people to check-in at the front office for safety reasons."
FamCamp also gathers campers together with festivals such as the St. Patrick's Day party and the FamCamp Dog Show. These festivals feature live bands, food and raffles. Campers also put on holiday parties and use the center's kitchen to prepare and serve Christmas or Thanksgiving meals, said Mrs. Long.
The camp offers three different options for getting away from it all: 91 RV sites with water, electricity and cable hook-ups, an area for tents and three furnished cabins. Some of the RV sites have sewer hook-ups as well.
"We're working on a project to put in nine new RV sites," said Mrs. Long.
With all the activities, the new construction and running day-to-day operations, how does the FamCamp manager keep up with maintaining "Paradise?"
"The volunteers are the backbone of this place," said Mrs. Long. "The campers built wooden picnic tables for each site. They built the recreation center."
The FamCamp has two repairmen on call, but everyone pitches in to create a home away from home.
"We're a family here," said Mrs. Long. "We're always there to help out - especially the people new to RVing.
"The people and the property are great," she continued. "Why wouldn't you want to go to 'Paradise?'"