Master Naturalists Celebrate 20 Years
by Marilyn McFarland, Director, Communications
Lindheimer Chapter Texas Master Naturalists
Lindheimer Chapter Texas Master Naturalists was begun in the fall of 2000, with the mission of developing “a corps of well-trained “master volunteers” to provide education, outreach and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural areas and resources within their communities for the State of Texas.
Here are some “founding factoids”:
- The Lindheimer Master Naturalists chapter was started by the Horticultural Committee of Comal County.
- Marty Gibbs, the County Agent in 2000, asked Darlene Welge to organize the first class because she had been instrumental in starting the Master Gardeners
- The first class met Friday afternoons in the county offices in New Braunfels for their lectures. This is the only class to be held in New Braunfels.
- The first class had no curriculum. Sandra Moody, one of the students and a professor at Texas State University, helped design the curriculum based on an ecology course she taught.
- The first class had no manual or notes. The presenters were asked to bring handouts of their lectures so the students could build a manual throughout the year.
- There was a test after each lecture for the first class. These proved so unpopular they were never repeated! 🙂
- The 15 members of the first class earned 1,434 volunteer hours during their year of training. Of that, 525 hours were by Darlene Welge for organizing and running the class.
- The first project of the Lindheimer chapter was the Guadalupe River Trail for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is still supported today.
Members of each class choose a class name. There have been Trailblazers, Prickly Pears, Pond Meisters, Canyon Spirits and Mud Daubers, to name a few.
Since those early days, the Lindheimer Chapter has grown and flourished. Today, there are 160 active members, 32 in training for a total of 192 members.
Over the last 20 years, the Lindheimer Chapter has trained 402 master naturalists, contributed 187,000 volunteer hours to the natural areas and resources of Comal County and obtained 22,000 advanced training hours. The chapter provides education and outreach to approximately 25,000 Comal County residents annually.
Doug Dalglish of the Founders Class, 2001, who is still an active member today, states that becoming a Master Naturalist changed how he viewed the natural world – “it’s a lot more complicated and interconnected than I had previously known.”
Mary Wenzel, another of the Founders of 2001, “wanted to contribute to my hometown and county.” Wenzel states that being a master naturalist “taught me the importance of the connection of native flora and fauna to the health of the ecosystem. We are all connected.”
Another Founder-2001, Ernie Lee, states that he learned “the importance of natural areas and public awareness. “There is room for everyone” to get involved in nature.
Judy Brupbacher, RoadRunners Class-2004, reminisced about the early projects: “Our class project was adding the trail between the AgriLife office to the barn.”
She also worked on “the early stages of the South Trail along the Guadalupe River, the arboretum at AgriLife, the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country, along with various projects along the way.” Those projects have been supported through the years by the chapter and are thriving today.
Today’s projects include: Building and maintaining nature trails; removing invasive plants; restoring native plant habitats and wildscapes; monitoring water quality; contributing to citizen science databases; educating the public on nature topics using educational nature trunks, and increasing public awareness of the need to protect and preserve the natural areas and resources of Comal County.
Monthly meetings that provide a presentation on naturalist topics are free and open to the public. Visit www.txmn.org/lindheimer or email LindheimerMNContact@gmail.com for more information.