Announcing our 2021 Volunteer Award winners!

A beach with driftwood in the foreground, and a bridge over two land pieces in the background.

The 2021 Volunteer of the Year volunteered at Deception Pass State Park

Drumroll, please….

By Valerie Roberts, Volunteer Program Manager

Washington State Parks volunteers demonstrate time and again our connection to our state lands.

This year, we recognize the amazing contributions made by our state parks volunteers, which make an immeasurable impact on our natural world, our cultural landscape and how visitors experience parks. 

We highly value all our volunteers for their service! They make Washington state parks the wonderful places they are.

We proudly recognize the following Volunteer Award recipients, nominated and chosen by park staff, for their outstanding commitment and acts of service in 2021. Thank you to each and every one of you! 

Volunteer of the Year  

Rory Wallgren (Deception Pass State Park)

With more than 450 volunteer hours logged since 2017, Rory has been a dedicated volunteer for Deception Pass State Park. This year, Rory has worked with park staff to gather, deconstruct and rebuild many of the park’s picnic tables to ensure they are in good repair and usable for visitors. In addition, Rory makes time regularly to clear park trails so that visitors can easily navigate Deception Pass’ 40-mile trail system. Rory is welcoming and considerate of others’ thoughts, feelings and opinions. Rory works continuously to make Deception State Park a welcoming and friendly place. 

“I think about the first sentence of our own mission in that Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission cares for Washington’s most treasured lands, waters and historic places.   Rory epitomizes this statement and would represent the agency at the highest level.” – Jason Armstrong

Right: Rick Dye, Host of the Year, and his pup.

A male person with dalmation dog sits in a golf cart.

Host of the Year

Rick Dye (Dash Point State Park)

Park Hosts are vital to State Parks. They ensure campers feel welcomed and safe and have the resources they need to enjoy state parks. Rick Dye, as Park Host for Dash Point, has gone above and beyond to ensure visitors and staff have the best experience possible. Rick is always friendly, helpful and hardworking. He brings his positive personality to all that he does. He has also taken additional projects from park rangers, including removing invasive plants from the park while planting native plants he has donated to Dash Point. 

“I trust Rick deeply and feel extremely reassured whenever the campground is in his hands. I literally have NEVER heard a complaint from Rick, and seeing him without a smile on his face is an extremely rare occurrence. Rick has always wholeheartedly welcomed every task I’ve given him, consistently going above and beyond whatever my standard for him was, usually finding a better way to do it than I originally suggested.” – Sage Hoag

Honorable Mentions:

  • Robert Cameron and Barbara Stuebing (Sun Lakes)
  • Mike and Minnie Dixon (Bay View)
  • Jim and Brenda Jordan (South Whidbey)
A female wearing a baseball cap and a male wearing a sun hat stand in front of a stone tower.

Christine and Ron Brown enjoy a sunny day at Mount Constitution.

Rookie Hosts of the Year

Christine & Ron Brown (Moran State Park)

In August of 2021, Moran State Park staff needed a new Park Host to help at the Summit Visitor Center.  Ron and Christine Brown answered the call and were there within a week!  They quickly immersed themselves into the island’s culture and became excellent representatives of Washington State Parks.  They helped visitors understand and access Moran’s complex trail system, they filled crucial roles at the interpretive center, they provided historical and environmental education and they maintained a litter-free Mount Constitution summit.  During their service, Christine and Ron became staff and visitor favorites.  They’re excited to announce they will both be returning to Moran for another great summer in 2022!

“They’re both just a pleasure to be around. They work hard and make people smile.  What more could we ask for from our volunteer camp hosts? “ – Justin Krogstad

Honorable Mentions:

  • Walt and Martie Washington (Spencer Spit)
A row of historic officers' homes sits beneath shade trees.

Friends of Fort Worden is the 2021 Volunteer Group of the Year

Volunteer Group of the Year  

Friends of Fort Worden (Fort Worden State Park)

Every year the Friends of Fort Worden go above and beyond the call of duty for their park. They are involved in restoration, trail maintenance, noxious weed control interpretation and more. 

In 2021, The Friends of Fort Worden, along with the two AmeriCorps members, removed approximately 9000 lbs of scotch broom, 1224 cubic yards of spurge laurel and 64 33-gallon bags of poison hemlock.  The Friends of Fort Worden held at least one work party each month to tackle different invasive species.  They also partnered with The Port Townsend Marine Science Center to remove European Dune Grass. 

Additionally, they’ve installed handrails for multiple buildings and steps, making the park more accessible. They’ve refurbished signs, cleared drainage ditches, planted native plants and funded multiple AmeriCorps positions to help with the work being done at Fort Worden.

“It is really hard to put into words how much the Friends of Fort Worden do to support the preservation and enhancement of Fort Worden State Park.” – Bill Drath

Outstanding Contribution by a Volunteer

Frank Benish (Inland Northwest Area)

Frank is a dedicated and passionate volunteer for Mount Spokane and Riverside state parks. He is an avid mountain biker and an amazing steward of their existing trails, as well as an advocate for any trail system expansions. He is usually one of the first out with a trail-building tool in his hands. Frank puts in over 100 hours per year doing a variety of trail work and helps with general repairs in his parks. This year, he volunteered to help repaint and upgrade the park’s bulletin boards. In addition, Frank laid out an impressive plan to groom areas so that fat tire bikers could enjoy the snowy weather in winter.

“I have seen Frank in our parks on numerous occasions going out of his way to make our facilities more appealing for a variety of user groups.” – Rex Schultz

Right: YouthBuild students construct a picnic table for Washington State Parks.

Outstanding Contribution by a Group

YouthBuild (Inland Northwest Area)

The YouthBuild program provides a second chance opportunity for young people who have struggled with traditional school, the criminal justice system and/or addiction. In 2021, the first cohort of student volunteers for the Inland Northwest Area rehabbed almost 40 picnic tables, donating more than 300 hours of volunteer service to strip and sand old planks, stain them, travel to the park and install the rehabbed boards. These young people have taken great pride in serving their community. As of mid-October 2021, a new cohort of students is coming in, and this new cohort, and each subsequent cohort, will begin their program with State Parks’ picnic table rehab.

“It has been an exhilarating program to be a part of. These young people have taken great pride in being a service to their community. Many of the participants are in the process of overcoming significant personal adversity to turn their lives around.” – Rex Schultz

Friends of Lake Sammamish (Cascade Foothills Area)

Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, led by the Trails Committee, has completed a Comprehensive Trails plan for Lake Sammamish State Park. This plan has outlined how the group can improve the trails at Lake Sammamish and provide better access to visitors. With this plan, park staff and the Friends of Lake Sammamish will be able to intentionally better their park by creating more ADA access, improving existing trails and creating more access with new trails. Additionally, Friends of Lake Sammamish has begun writing and securing grants to continue this important work at the park.

“The planning, commitment and dedication of this Friends Group has gone far above and beyond to improve the park for the benefit of the entire community.” – Jennifer Adut

Honorable Mention:

Friends of Fort Flagler (Fort Flagler State Park)

A group of young people make picnic benches from wood planks.
A group of young people work with wood.
A male person sits at the helm of a boat on the water.

Bill Way on his boat.

Significant Volunteer Achievement

Bill Way (Lake Sammamish State Park)

As a board member for the Friends of Lake Sammamish, Bill has spent hundreds of hours working to create a new Comprehensive Trails Plan for the park. This plan is designed to increase accessibility and connectivity for all park visitors while working to protect the park’s habitats. Bill is a tireless advocate for the natural environment and our parks. He is a creative person with a can-do attitude, who has done so much for the parks while making time to mentor others. 

“Bill’s hand has positively influenced both public and private development and in many ways helped deliver Issaquah’s natural environment values throughout his career.” - Suzanne Kagen

A male person sits at a picnic bench with drones on the table in front of a historic fort.

Pete Kelsey prepares to launch his specialized drones at Fort Casey.

Stewardship Hero

Pete Kelsey (Fort Casey, Beacon Rock & Columbia Hills)

With the use of specialized sensors attached to drones, Pete has been able to help the Stewardship Program collect data that can literally make the invisible visible. The data he has collected about the locations of historic buildings, presence of rare plant species and factors impacting restoration of natural communities can help Washington State Parks better preserve historic resources and natural habitats and improve our ability to restore habitats for native plants and animals.

“What Pete has brought to Parks through his technology alone is remarkable. HoweverPete is also an enthusiastic and passionate storyteller and supporter of Parks, and he has offered to help us in many more ways, which we have yet to take him up on. His enthusiasm for helping us better steward our state’s cultural and natural resources is truly inspiring.” – Andrea Thorpe and Alex McMurray

Lifetime Achievement

Debbie Berto (Lake Sammamish State Park)

As a founding member of the Friends of Lake Sammamish State Park, Debbie has volunteered with Washington State Parks for over 14 years. In that time, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Friends Group and improved her park through multiple projects. Debbie has led the effort to raise $1.1 million dollars for an all-access playground for Lake Sammamish. She has also led multiple annual events for the community. Additionally, Debbie plays a key role in communications for the Friends Group and often writes and edits press releases. 

“Community service is Debbie's lifelong passion, and Lake Sammamish State Park has been the beneficiary.” – Suzanne Kagen

Right: Debbie Berto

A portrait of a female with short hair.
A female stands in front of a camp host sign Several plastic flamingoes surround the sign

Certificates of Appreciation

Special thanks go out to:

  • Kit McCartney (Deception Pass) for your above and beyond service as a Park Host and volunteer!

Love Washington’s state parks? Want to volunteer?

Anyone can be a Washington State Parks volunteer — individuals, couples, and groups. Volunteers help greet visitors, maintain trails, host at campgrounds, develop programs and more. Learn more about our Volunteer Program.

Left: Kit McCartney shows her unique camp host site decor.