DANVILLE — Becoming a Master Naturalist takes dedication of time and effort, but those involved in the program say it’s worthwhile.
“It’s a fabulous, fabulous program,” said Kimberly Warner-Blodgett, who finished the training last fall. She’s 11 hours away from certification.
“I love it,” said Bev Smith of Cissna Park, who also just finished her training. “The instructors are so knowledgeable. It’s a wonderful experience.”
She’s eager to return in the spring to see the results of a prairie restoration project along Vermilion County road 900 East — the fruits of their labor.
“That’s the result of our efforts — the opportunity to do something in our own backyard,” Smith said.
Jim Fay of Sidney has been involved in the Master Naturalists a few months, saying, “This is a good group and what they’re doing is very worthwhile. You get together with people and do interesting things.”
The Master Naturalist program educates and trains adult volunteers to help disseminate natural resource information to the public and to assist with conservation activities.
The east central Illinois program is jointly sponsored by University of Illinois Extension, Champaign County Forest Preserve District, and Urbana Park District. It exists within the framework of the Illinois Master Naturalist program.
A person must apply to get into the program, and applications are available on the website. Cost is $175, which includes a manual; some partial scholarships are available.
Training is offered once a year, from the end of August through October, and includes both classroom and outdoors hands-on classes. The participants meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday for 10 weeks, and there are two Saturday field days. The classes have about 25-20 people.
After that, participants must complete 60 hours of volunteer work within two years in order to become certified as Master Naturalists. Then, each year, the person must put in 30 hours of volunteer work and 10 hours of continuing education to stay certified.