About Us
History of Arkansas Master Naturalists Print
Written by Tom Neale   

In The Beginning by Tom Neale, President CAMN 2009-2010

I had the good fortune to live in Austin, Texas, from 1994 to 2004.  In 1999 I had even more good fortune to participate in the Texas Master Naturalist Program.  I immediately fell in love with the program.  I liked the type of people it attracted and the service to the community that it provided.  I served as President for the Capital Area Master Naturalist chapter in 2001.

In 2004 my wife, Eileen Oldag, took a position with Heifer International in Little Rock.  Upon moving to Little Rock I was surprised to learn that a Master Naturalist Program had yet to be established.  Considering how beautiful the state of Arkansas is and how the love of nature pervades its citizenry I began exploring the possibility of beginning a program in the central region.  I became a board member of Partners for Pinnacle, a supporting organization for Pinnacle Mountain State Park.  I shared with them the value of the Master Naturalist program and they agreed to provide the seed money to get a program started.  After meeting with Park Interpreter, Linda Goza, and volunteer coordinator, Brenda Norwood, and getting the support of Park Superintendent, Ron Salley, we began putting together the essentials for the first Master Naturalist Program. Linda Goza was most helpful in finding the best presenters for the topics we wished to address.  Brenda Norwood provided materials and refreshments that made the first participants feel welcome and comfortable. 

Pinnacle Mountain State Park was/is a perfect setting for a Master Naturalist program.  We have many wonderful resources in the area to call upon.  And they have many opportunities for volunteer activities. 

The heart and soul of the Master Naturalist program is education and volunteer service to the community.  The ongoing education fulfills the need for many of us to continue learning about nature, our community and our selves.  Volunteering to maintain and preserve the natural beauty around us is a valuable means of giving back to the nature and the community that sustains us.  Just as important is the opportunity to spend time with folks that share my love of learning and doing something to make central Arkansas more beautiful.  Master Naturalist programs seem to attract the most interesting and pleasant people!

The Central Arkansas Master Naturalist program had the good fortune of recruiting resourceful, passionate, and committed participants in its first class.  Jonelle Doughty, George Lauster and Anne Massey have served as presidents for the past three years, respectively, and have been instrumental in providing a sound foundation and exciting direction. The program continues to attract the most interesting, resourceful and committed people.  I am happy and proud to have played a small part in the Arkansas Master Naturalist program.

Submitted, July 20, 2009

Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2013 08:01

Our valuable member Tom Neale has been with us since Saturday, 06 June 2009.

Show Other Articles Of This Author