The Arkansas Master Naturalist Organization and other state-wide organizations and presenters were invited by Kelly Farrell, Chief of Interpretation and Program Services, to attend the meet-and-greet mixer at the Annual Arkansas State Parks Interpretation Workshop on August 19th. This annual conference, for approximately 70 State Park Interpreters, consists of agency updates, industry trends, hands-on practical skills training, networking, idea sharing, and inspiration. Although the Arkansas State Parks hold the Interpretation Workshop annually, the meet-and-greet is held every other year, the last one being in 2012. The theme of this year’s mixer, “A Market Place of Ideas,” was held at DeGray Lake Resort State Park in Bismarck, AR. This opening mixer and networking session was designed to put faces with names, ask questions, and explore potential partnerships. Exhibitors during the session were Arkansas Mycological Society, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Native Plant Society, Arkansas Living History, Project Learning Tree, Leopold Education Project, Arkansas Geological Survey, Arkansas Archeological Survey, as well as the Master Naturalist Organization, to name just a few.
Accepting the invitation, Terri Argyle and I traveled to DeGray Lake Resort with a display that consisted of as many Master Naturalist handouts as we could put together, a tri-fold display, and a computer presentation that looped throughout the entire session, allowing visitors at our table to gather information and see photographs of Master Naturalists in action as volunteers. Visitors collected brochures, informational handouts, and loved the butterfly milkweed seeds that we handed out…courtesy of CAMN. We were able to talk, until we were hoarse, to many State Park Interpreters and answer their questions about who we are, what we do, how to access the AMN Website, and identify the AMN Chapter that might be close to their State Park. We discovered that there are many parks that will be having special projects going on in the near future that may require AMN volunteers. Several interpreters were interested in the possibility of creating new chapters in their areas. The Arkansas Master Naturalist Organization has now been introduced to many Arkansas State Park Interpreters and, although it was a long drive, both Terri and I felt that the trip was well worth it.