20th Anniversary Webpage

The Chapter was really a groundbreaker from the beginning being the second chapter formed within the state. I have always, and continue, to be amazed at the dedication of its members. I truly believe the HCMN Chapter is the best one in the state and am honored to be associated with it.


Please join us in celebrating 20 years as the Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist program and recognizing our contributions to Hays County.

We will kick off our celebration with a casual social on Friday evening, August 9 at the Shady Llama, http://theshadyllama.com/, 18325 Ranch Road 12, Wimberley, Texas from 5 – 9 PM. You will be able to pick up your Anniversary T-shirt if you have ordered one. The Shady Llama offers adult beverages and has two food trucks on site.

Our main event will be Saturday, August 10 at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park with recognition of many of our projects and recollections from the early years. Please bring your memories and share!

Saturday events will begin at 9:00 AM with time to renew acquaintances and view exhibits.  Representative Erin Zwiener will present a resolution from the Texas House of Representatives recognizing the chapter at 9:30.  The two AT opportunities (for a total of 1.5 hours of AT) will begin at 9:45 and include: a tour of the Dripping Springs Ranch Park project including the trails, the bird observation station, and blue bird trail; and an opportunity for reviewing and practicing the use of the iNaturalist App. 

A picnic lunch (with vegetarian option) will be served at 11:30 at a cost of $10 per person (cash or check at the door.) A reservation for lunch is required. To make a reservation please send an email to Mary Dow Ross at marydowross@gmail.com no later than Monday, August 5 and include the name of any guest(s) you may be bringing. If you or your guest would like the vegetarian option, please indicate that in your email. You will receive a response to your email reservation. We want to be sure to have an accurate count for the caterer, so we appreciate being notified of any change in your plans as soon as possible once you have made a reservation. No-shows will be billed, if notification is not made by August 5.

After lunch, we will have presentations from our Advisors Circle including Mary Pearl Meuth from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; chapter founder, Billy Kniffen; and chapter advisors Billy Kniffen, Bryan Davis, Richard Parrish and Gordon Linam.  We will end with a video “Up and Down Memory Lane”.  

We will have door prizes! If you would like to donate a door prize, please bring it to the Ranch Park on Saturday morning. We hope to see you (and your guests) at one or both events! View Agenda Here


Click Button Below to Read All Letters of Support


  • Added Eva Frost Interview

  • Added Testimonials Webpage

  • Added Art Arizpe interview

  • Added Doray Lendacky and Mark Wojcik interviews.

  • Added Beverly Gordon and Mary O’Hara interviews.

  • Added Leah Laszewski, Lance Jones, Cynthia Hobson & Kenneth Dees interviews.

  • Added Judy Burdett interview.

  • Added Interviews with BOB CURRIE 2011 Painted Buntings & DELL AND GERIN HOOD, 1999 Roadrunner Class

  • Added Copy of the first Newsletter.

Read the First Newsletter of what would become the Hays County Master Naturalist Chapter- Click Here

I was digging up some plants earlier this week along a roadside being ripped up to widen that road and a lady on a bicycle stopped and told me “I was adding a day to my life for every plant I rescued”
— Billy Kniffen - October 1998, 1st Newsletter Vol. 1, No. 1
HCMN Llano Uplift Tour 2013 - Historian Documents

HCMN Llano Uplift Tour 2013 - Historian Documents



Click the button below and fill out 5 question form. We will post all stories to the website for the Chapter to read.

Member Stories listed in the order they are submitted with the most recent stories first. View all Member Stories Click Here.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: I think my first project was volunteering at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center. I worked at the welcome desk. The people that work there were very nice, interesting and it was neat to meet visitors from all over the world. Of course hiking down to the grotto or on the upland trails is an experience every one would enjoy. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and that is where I saw my "lifer" Golden-cheeked Warbler
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Picking a favorite is practically impossible. They are all different and fun in their own ways. I have really enjoyed working on the newsletter. The Fourth of July parade was quite an event and I will definitely do that again. I look forward to Project Feeder Watch every year because I love birds and learn so much. But right now, working on the Dripping Springs Ranch Park Aviary Observation Deck has a big place in my heart. I really love this place and am so glad I got to be involved in something that I know will bring joy to folks and the children for years to come. It is a very peaceful place for me.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: Most of my funny memories are from class events. The instructors and speakers always made things interesting. We had many good laughs. Nature can be cruel but it is also funny.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: I am excited to get to be a part of a great group of people with the same interests in caring for the beautiful nature around us. I look forward to meeting old and new members and visiting with ones I have worked with. I think this group has done many great things. I look forward to being a part of the great things they do in the future.

What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I think it was helping with the Chinaberry Tree mapping at the Onion Creek WQPL. The project was lead by Tom Watson who did an excellent job of explaining what we were doing, why, and keeping us straight (literally). We had to conduct sweeps of the entire property and record the GPS coordinates of all the Chinaberry trees. The results were used by the City of Austin Water Utility to plan the eradication and control of this invasive, non-native species. I completely enjoyed every time we were out there. It was such a beautiful and peaceful hike.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I enjoy leading nature hikes and tours. It's great to see young people getting involved and having so much knowledge already.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: We were at the Onion Creek property and one of the new folks wanted to make sure he knew what a chinaberry tree looked like. Tom spotted a small one a bit away from the road. I offered to retrieve a sample of it to examine. I hiked off the road and brought it back to Tom. Tom was very kind because I had incorrectly brought back a flame leaf sumac. Tom explained my error and asked me to go get the right one. How embarrassing! So much for my knowledge as an experienced chinaberry hunter! Tom was very cool about it and said it was easy to get the two confused. Very classy.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to you?: I'm happy to be associated with so many fine people who care about our surroundings as much as I do. The members are a constant source of learning for me.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: Eastern Bluebird nest box - made 2 "permanent" bird boxes from the supplies and instructions provided by Bonnie Tull. I cut and drilled all the PVC, and then assembled the boxes.
They will replace the older ones in Dripping Springs Ranch Park.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Participating with the Outdoor Educators in March to tell 3rd graders about birds.
The kids were very interested and enthusiastic about the topics. It was very easy to get into character and be 9 years old again.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: I love to learn. It's exciting to hang out with the same type of people that get as excited as I do when we discover an insect, bird, plant, etc on the site visits or field trips during the certification training period. I remember, after the class presentation at the Freeman Ranch we were given butterfly nets. Our mission: to collect butterflies and identify (with the help of our instructor). We worked as teams of two as they were only enough nets for 1/2 the class. So imagine, 15 - 20 people running thru the fields with butterfly nets. At one point, I realized we probably look like escapees from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: The tip of the iceberg. I'm in the class of 2019 so it's exciting to find my passion in and with an organization whose members share the same respect for the environment and planet Earth as me. It's the tip of the iceberg because I'm just getting started on this new journey with Mother Nature and sharing this journey with others.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: I put caterpillar food in the little containers for the Butterfly Festival.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I have really enjoyed being on the Training Committee, mostly because it gives me a chance to revisit the material and keep reinforcing what we are learning.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: Before I figured out the various communication tools that we use as a chapter I kept getting emails about LBB's. I finally figured out that these notes were encouraging me to learn more about "little brown birds." I've made some progress, but have to admit I still can't tell most of them apart despite all the encouragement.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: I have only been here a few years, but having such a substantial and well developed organization in place has greatly enhanced my appreciation of where I am living and how rapidly I felt "at home" as I settled into my new life here.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
Perhaps VMS will refute me, but I recall my first volunteer experience at the Emily Ann Butterfly Festival. I had the privilege of releasing butterflies, witnessing the awe and wonder of young minds. This also afforded me an eye-opening insight of how little society knows about our precious resources & native species. Thus, flaming a passion to protect and preserve nature however I can!
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: My favorite activity is simply being outside! Since graduation, I’ve been on the Training Committee’s Site Visit Team and seem to have a talent for recruitment. (You’ll find me a most outreach events, hawking the program.) I find this committee’s genuine dedication, diverse backgrounds, and infectious humor are a magnet that keeps drawing me back year after year.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: I suppose I have been a Naturalist all my life, beginning with my grandmother’s teachings about birds. When Lauren Young and I graduated, we were so inspired that we went out and got dragonfly tattoos! I proudly display this at every opportunity to talk about HCMN.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: This tribe has become my church. I find renewed spiritual energy with every encounter! I feel blessed to surround myself with like-minded souls who devote time and energy to rescue & revive all things in nature.

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
 I believe my first project was at Jacob's Well while I was still a trainee. There was a group of us. Most of the guys had some project going that required tools and muscles. The rest of us were sent to remove malta start thistle. I got to know several of the members that day visiting while sitting in a very small space pulling up thousands of Malta star-thistle plants. I enjoyed getting to know these members better but, I run at the mention of Malta star-thistle to this day.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: My favorite volunteer project and the one that I spend most of my time is Westcave Outdoor Learning Center. I lead tours and assist the conservation team. I love introducing others to the canyon and grotto and providing information about the eco-systems, geology, flora and fauna of this special place . For most people it is their first time to visit and they are blown away by the beauty of the waterfall and unique vegetation that is in the canyon. The conservation work is always fun too. I have helped with building bird blinds, setting posts, clearing fire breaks, invasive and planting trees to name a few.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?:
 The HaysMN members have made this organization the best there is. It is evident in the many volunteer projects, dedicated leaders, and the many hours that have been spent on them. I believe the citizens of Hays County have received many great benefits as a result and will continue to receive more in the future

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?:
 I volunteer at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment as part of the AquaCorps volunteer diving program. We dive in Spring Lake (San Marcos) to help monitor and manage the lake. A typical task is to remove overgrown aquatic plants that are blocking the view of spring openings from visitors in the glass-bottom boats. I was already enjoying this activity when I became a Master Naturalist, and now I can use this fun activity to get hours for ongoing certification as well as the Texas Waters Specialization. Anyone who is already certified as a recreational diver can take a weekend-long Dive Authorization Course to join the AquaCorps group. Spring Lake is about 70 degrees F all year long. In the summer it is so refreshing to get into the cool water to complete a dive assignment. In the winter it feels fine, too, but getting out of the water into a stiff cool breeze can be a bit uncomfortable! It is incredibly relaxing to dive into the quiet waters, and to get to see some of the largemouth bass, crayfish, gar, and turtles that occupy the lake. It's such an amazing experience - it almost doesn't seem real!
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: Recently I started participating in the City of San Marcos's land management project at the Sessoms Creek Park. This city-owned property near Texas State University was partially covered in bamboo when the project began less than two years ago. City staff and volunteers together have transformed the appearance of the park, removing bamboo, chinaberry, tree of heaven, and ligustrum, and sowing native wildflower seeds. Why do I enjoy it? I've learned something about myself recently. I really love removing invasive plants. There is something almost Zen-like about pulling up a tiny chinaberry sprout, and seeing that you got it, root and all! Also I must mention that breakfast kolaches or a pizza lunch are provided to the volunteers to thank them for their hard work. Master Naturalists all know how important food is to us!
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: These are still early days for me since I just graduated last year! This morning I marched with HCMN in the Wimberley Fourth of July parade. We had the big banner up front proclaiming our identity, the truck (decorated with butterflies) playing patriotic music, and the rest of us marching along behind playing our kazoos. The crowd was very interested in who we were, and appreciative of our group. When we started playing, many bystanders actually joined in singing along. "This Land is Your Land" seemed like the magic tune that really got people excited. It was silly and fun, and I want to do it every year from now on!
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: As a newbie, I am in awe of the hard work that must have gone into creating the Hays County chapter. It is clear to me that Hays County is the best chapter in the state, and I'm just glad I had the wisdom to be living here already, or else I would have had to move!

What was your 1st. Project and what did you do?: San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance Trail crew. We created new trails and maintain the trails in all six of the natural areas in San Marcos. I was a member of the trail crew before I joined HCMN. Lance Jones and Dick McBride got my interest up and the rest is history. I still work on the trail crew. After I joined the HCMN, I worked in the Discovery Center (formally known as the Nature Center) for several years.
What is your favorite Volunteer Activity & why?: I work as a volunteer in the Schulle Canyon Natural Area. I live next to this 22 acre in the middle of San Marcos. I enjoy keeping the trails trimmed and the trees off the trails. I walk this area daily and taking care of this area means a lot to help provide a great place for the human visitors and the natural residents.
Can you share a story or funny memory from your early days with HCMN?: The whole experience as a Master Naturalist has been great fun.
What does the HCMN 20th Anniversary mean to You?: This tells me that HCMN is a thriving and growing organization. I think Hays County is a better place because of the past efforts and the continuing work being done by the members. I feel privileged to be a part of this volunteer group.

HCMN Anniversary T-Shirt Design