Cheers to our volunteers: Celebrating those who make a difference

dosewallips volunteer

If you're a happy and you know're a state parks volunteer! Jo (left) and Lonnie Doner, a retired couple from Battleground, get so many smiles out of volunteering at Dosewallips State Park they come back year after year!

May 2, 2018

Washington State Parks volunteers come from every age group, background and walk of life. But they always have a few things in common: they are awesome, talented, awesome, hard-working, awesome, dedicated and love Washington’s state parks!

Oh … did we mention they are awesome?


Volunteers put in more than 250,000 hours of service each year and are a vital part of state parks.

They bring unique talents, skills and lot of heart to their roles. Their generous efforts enhance the state parks experience for everyone.

Our state’s most beautiful places would not be as fabulous without our volunteers’ time and talent. Interested? You’ll find almost no limit to the ways you can volunteer.

Are you a retired couple with an RV? Consider becoming a camp host. Know a little something about nature or history? How about volunteering as an interpreter? Like working with the public? Perhaps minding the park store or checking in visitors is in your wheelhouse.

Of course, the job of keeping the parks clean and ready for visitors is never done. Picking up trash, raking, recycling, pulling weeds, tree trimming and even doing light restorative repairs are always needed. If you a savvy sailor or just interested in boating, you can even volunteer with the Boating Program! Whether you are a group, couple or individual, have a little time or a lot, you’ll find plenty of ways to help state parks.

Saying thanks!

Cowboy (002)

So what if the vest doesn't fit your chest? No need for a big body to be a state parks volunteer — a big heart will do just fine! This year Cowboy Cornie (left, age 9) of Conconully, was named Rookie Volunteer of the Year for his contributions at Conconully State Park.

Of course, we love to say thank you in return!  

Each year we recognize some of our most outstanding volunteers with the Washington State Parks Volunteer Recognition Awards.

Our hats are off to this year’s group of (awesome) volunteers, nominated by our park staff members. Want to see how many ways our volunteers have contributed to parks? Check out this amazing bunch!

Volunteer of the Year: Bob Smith (Tacoma)
Rasar and Rockport state parks
“Bob Smith is a dedicated volunteer and a favorite among our campers. I’ve had campers specially ask me when Bob is going to be hosting, so that they can plan their trip around his schedule.” — Ranger Brandon Hoekstra.

Interpretative Volunteer of the Year: Sammye Kempbell (Coupeville)
Deception Pass State Park
“Sammye Kempbell has been an outstanding volunteer. For all 14 years she has served as an amazing steward for this vital ecosystem. Every day she exceeds the call of duty of service and, in many staff's opinion, is the best example of commitment to service.” — AmeriCorps Jacqueline French

Rookie Volunteer of the Year: Cowboy Cornie (Conconully)
Conconully State Park
“Whether it's planting a new tree to commemorate the New Old Time Chautauqua event or setting up bat houses when the Omak School groups come to the park, Cowboy (age 9) consistently demonstrates the kind of infectious character and attitudes that attract people to Washington state parks and our Volunteer Programs.” — Ranger Ken Ross

Hosts of the Year: Ralph and Margaret Silva-Perry (Olympia)
Jarrell Cove State Park
“Margaret and Ralph always go above and beyond to help not just with the park’s needs but also with staffing needs. Margaret would often take time out of the day to check on campers. Ralph seemed like he was always on the go from sunrise to sunset, always there, fixing things, making things new for the park. Also, Margaret makes a mean apple pie.” — Ranger Emma Costantini

Rookie Hosts of the Year: Bev and Gerry VanWinkle (Wenatchee)
Lincoln Rock State Park
“I nominated Gerry and Bev VanWinkle for volunteer of the year honors for their hard work and dedication to our park and our visitors. In a nutshell, they were an asset to our operation, to the state and to the visitors who experienced the fruits of their labors during their visits.” Ranger Dennis Lotts

Lifetime Achievement: Alfred Chiswell (Port Townsend)
Fort Worden Historical State Park
“Alfred has donated thousands of hours at Fort Worden Historical State Park, in service to both Washington State Parks and The Coast Artillery Museum. The visitor experience and overall historical interpretation at Fort Worden have been improved tremendously through dozens of Coast Artillery Museum projects, which Alfred personally organized.” — Bill Drath, program assistant

Tab Tabacek Award of Excellence: Dutch and Janet Boynton (Pasco)
Brooks Memorial State Park
“Jim (Dutch) and Janet Boynton are a retired couple from Pasco. They started volunteering and hosting for Washington State Parks in 2008. The Boynton's have spent approximately three months each summer at Brooks Memorial and around a month at Lake Easton.” — Ranger Adam Fahlenkamp

Group of the Year: Fort Worden Trail Team (Port Townsend)
Group Leader: Jan North
Fort Worden Historical State Park
“The Trail Team is a group of dedicated local volunteers, most of whom belong to the Friends of Fort Worden Group. The Trail Team helps steward the trails and beaches of Fort Worden by helping the park rangers communicate positive information with visitors, reporting problems and creating work parties to help repair, maintain and brush trails and remove invasive vegetation.” — Ranger Todd Jensen

More kudos…       Camp Hosts

In Grateful Recognition: Warren and Linda Dart (Marysville)
Central Whidbey Area

Outstanding Contribution by a Host: Linda Nilsen (Washougal)
Battleground Lake and Paradise Point state parks

Outstanding Contribution by an Individual: Bob Strong (Spokane)
Riverside State Park

Outstanding Contribution by an Individual: Diane Dawson (Bremerton)
Pearrygin Lake State Park

Outstanding Contribution by a Group: Pearrygin Lake Sno-Park Grooming Team (Pearrygin Lake)
Group Leader: Joseph Brow
Pearrygin Lake State Park

Our volunteers are as unique as our parks...Just how we like them!

Will you answer the call?volunteer with gun

Many history buffs find a place as state parks volunteer interpreters. Here, Dick Malone, 2016 Volunteer of the Year, leads at tour at Fort Casey Historical State Park.

Feeling inspired by all these great volunteers? Would you like to put your time and talents to use for state parks? Come explore our volunteer program page and then apply! Fun, memories and some really good vibes are waiting for you!

Volunteering can have benefits too!
Hours spent on certain volunteer projects can qualify volunteers for a complimentary Discover Pass.

Want to volunteer but not sure what you where or how?
Peruse our calendar of events and enter “volunteer” in the search box!

It all begins with an application!
Download the volunteer opportunities brochure today.

Did you know volunteering is not only fun, but good for you? 
It’s true! Check out the health benefits of volunteering here.

Consider becoming a ‘friend!’
Many of our state parks have Friends groups dedicated to preserving, maintaining and developing the park. These groups are always looking for new members. Learn more.

Have some great memories and photos of your state parks volunteer experience?
Share your story and photos here!