article by Nell Doyle – photos by Bob Verboon and Rebecca Carabelas
Autumn is “hunting season” for NCAMN. Rather than wild game, though, they’re searching for new members to join them in their quest to help keep the natural state natural. Applications are now open!
Whether on trails, along streams or in wildflower meadows, local naturalist volunteers work and play hard and in the process learn a lot about the forests, waterways and hillsides of north central Arkansas, according to Karen Woods, president of North Central Arkansas Master Naturalists (NCAMN).
“Joining NCAMN opens whole new worlds to many volunteers,” Woods adds. In addition to maintaining and building local hiking trails and monitoring water quality in area streams, Master Naturalists also get together for recreational hikes and floats, exploring some of the most beautiful and remote spots in the Ozarks.
While new members first take a series of classes with instructors who are experts in such fields as birding, botany, geology and archeology, they can begin volunteering right away, according to David LeMay, who organizes the “Naturalist-in-Training” classes that begin January 27, 2018, at Bull Shoals/White River State Park’s Gaston Visitor Center. (The following webpage includes class details and application forms: http://wordpress.arkansasmasternaturalists.org/how-do-i-join/)
“New member classes span an amazing array of topics that fascinate many folks who live in the area,” LeMay adds. “We learn about both native and invasive plants, mushrooms and fungi, bugs, frogs and toads, mammals, rocks, weather and a lot of other subjects. We also teach skills like how to maintain or even build a hiking trail and how to test stream water to see if a creek is a healthy habitat.”
“We have close to 150 members,” says Woods, “who worked nearly 8,300 volunteer hours and completed almost 1,600 hours in advanced training last year.” The chapter was founded in 2008 and is one of six chapters throughout Arkansas. Last year the state organization received national recognition for its volunteer work by the National Association of State Parks Directors.
“Our trail team maintained over 50 miles of trails in 2016-2017,” Woods adds, “including trails along Norfork Lake, in Bull Shoals/White River State Park, near Buffalo National River and on sections of the Ozark HIghland Trail.”
“The stream team monitors Jimmy and Moccasin Creeks and Shawnee Town Branch in Marion County, Pigeon Creek in Baxter County and Calico Creek in Izard County,” Woods comments further. “The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission uses our data to check on any water quality issues that may arise.”
“NCAMN volunteers also care for the Gaston Wildflower Meadow and the Ozark Folk Center State Park Heritage Herb Garden,” Woods adds, “and often help with wildflower seed collection at Baker Prairie in Boone County.”
Other information about volunteer activities can be found here: http://wordpress.arkansasmasternaturalists.org/volunteer-opportunities-in-north-central-chapter/
For questions about applications and classes, please contact Woods at 870-453-4003 or LeMay at 901-871-7272.