Building a Volunteer-centric Master Naturalist Training Program: A case study in community involvement

Category: Citizen/Advocacy | Recreation Programming

Date: Thursday, May 4

Session Description:


Join two City of Bellevue Park Rangers to learn how to build a training program for citizens who wish to become more ecologically-minded. Modeled after Master Gardener programs, the Bellevue Master Naturalist Training Program is an 11-week course offered at no cost to participants. Each year, roughly 15 Master Naturalists are recruited from the community, and subsequently trained to give back 100 volunteer hours maintaining restoration sites, leading environmental programs, completing special projects, etc. The program contributed benefits to the city of approx. $20,000 during 2015 alone. This program has become an important relationship between the City of Bellevue and the citizens we serve. The Master Naturalist Training Program is a good case study of how to build a corps of skilled community volunteers. Program development, lessons learned, and best management practices are discussed in context of a larger volunteer outreach program.


Curtis KukalCity of Bellevue


As a Bellevue Park Ranger & Environmental Programs Coordinator, Curtis Kukal’s duties are as varied as the parks he helps manage and interpret. On a given day, Curtis may be coordinating environmental programming, training and leading community volunteers, educating park customers on our local wildlife, or coordinating Bellevue’s Well K.E.P.T. (Kids Environmental Project Training) or Master Naturalist programs. Curtis received his B.S. from the University of Missouri-Columbia in Fisheries & Wildlife Management, and a M.S. from Texas Tech University in Wildlife Science. In addition to the City of Bellevue, he has worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Nature Conservancy, and Washington State Parks.




Laura HarperCity of Bellevue


 Laura works for the City of Bellevue’s Parks & Community Services Department as a Park Ranger and Visitor Center Coordinator, overseeing the City’s Community Garden Program, Seasonal Ranger Program, and Master Naturalist training program. As a city park ranger, much time is spent on environmental programs and answering visitor questions and concerns about environmental issues. The many wetland parks in the city offer opportunities to utilize both wildlife and wetland ecology knowledge in the implementation and planning of habitat restoration sites that can be maintained and monitored by our long-term volunteers. Laura received her B.S. from the University of Washington in Wildlife Science, and later a certificate in Wetland Science & Management from the University of Washington. Prior to working for the City of Bellevue, Laura has worked for or volunteered with the University of Washington, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, USGS, and the Woodland Park Zoo