State Parks announces 2018 volunteer awards

Washington State Parks has announced the recipients of its 2018 Volunteer Awards. Washington State Parks and Recreation commissioners or staff will present volunteers with their awards in the coming weeks.

Each year, the agency recognizes the contributions of its volunteers with special awards for service in the previous year. Individuals and groups were recognized in a dozen categories for the 2018 awards. State Parks staff nominate volunteers.

“Washington State Parks is fortunate to have an outstanding group of volunteers who contribute more than 200,000 hours each year to help improve parks and provide positive experiences for our visitors,” said State Parks Director Don Hoch.

“I am always so impressed by how truly dedicated and hard-working State Parks volunteers are,” said Cindy Whaley, chair of the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “Oftentimes, volunteers are the first people visitors meet when they go to a park.”

Each year, more than 9,800 volunteers contribute their time to Washington state parks in many ways. Parks volunteers assist visitors, clean campsites, maintain trails and grounds, help with interpretive presentations, host at campgrounds or offer special expertise on a variety of subjects.

Park staff nominate volunteers based on several criteria, such as:

Providing a commitment to service beyond the call of duty.

Fostering outdoor recreation and education to provide enjoyment and enrichment.

Representing State Parks with integrity.

Developing and implementing unique or innovative programs.

Making significant improvements in park service.

Being courteous, friendly and helpful.

Meeting change and adversity with a positive attitude.

Washington has an abundance of parks packed with beaches, forests and mountains.  Photo: Morf Morford
Washington has an abundance of parks packed with beaches, forests and mountains. Photo: Morf Morford

The 2018 Volunteer of the Year awards recipients and categories are:

Award of Excellence 

Gary Formhals

Fort Casey Historical State Park

Since he began hosting in 2015, Gary Formhals has contributed thousands of hours. He repaired and maintained small tools and mowers, did major park cleanup after a devastating windstorm, assisted with transporting trucks and equipment, gardened and mowed the vast park grounds in record time and completed many helpful tasks. Formhals was instrumental in helping with the Haunted Fort event. Staff commended him for his service above and beyond the call of duty, his integrity, and his courteous and kind manner with everyone who meets him.

Eastern Washington Group of the Year 

Olmstead-Smith Historical Gardeners

Olmstead Place Historical State Park

This committed group of gardeners has been volunteering at Olmstead Place Historical State Park for more than 25 years by maintaining a beautiful heritage garden. They plot out the garden, research appropriate heirloom plants, purchase seeds, start seedlings, hold a plant sale to raise money and more. Members provide visitors with learning experiences and advocate for the park. The group also offers volunteer opportunities, including a program for students at Central Washington University (CWU).

Western Washington Group of he Year 

Friends of Fort Townsend State Park

Fort Townsend Historical State Park

This dedicated group has been volunteering at the park since 2009. They remodeled the Friends Barn — a replica of a  historic 1800s-era stable building. These renovations have reduced heating costs by recirculating existing heat in the facility. The group also maintained park trails, cleaned up storm damage, cleaned the park’s historic cemetery, purchased supplies to patch potholes in the road, provided firewood to campers and more.

Outstanding Contribution by a Group 

Orcas Island Odd Fellows

Moran State Park

This group volunteered hundreds of hours to help run the Moran Creek Hatchery, which is located at Cascade Lake Day Use Area in Moran State Park. Volunteers fed fish, monitored and recorded water temperature and flow of water running through the hatchery troughs. In addition, they cleaned display tanks, talked with visitors and more. Their work resulted in the release of young Kokanee salmon into the main tributary to Cascade Lake for recreational fishing.

Volunteer Camp Hosts of he Year 

Ross and Pam Dunfee

Sacajawea Historical State Park

The Dunfees have been camp hosting since 2007 and have contributed thousands of hours to state parks. They help at the Sacajawea Interpretive Center and do park projects. They aid in such park events as the Salmon Celebration, where hundreds of school children come from all over Franklin County to learn and release young salmon. Last year, they were instrumental in the success of the park’s annual Heritage Days event. The Dunfees exemplify the very best in camp hosts with positive attitudes, tireless work ethic and a commitment to providing every visitor with an enjoyable, engaging experience.

Volunteer of the Year 

Wayne Clark

Fort Casey Historical State Park

Wayne Clark is the president of the Keepers of Admiralty Head Lighthouse. He exemplifies courtesy, friendliness and helpfulness to everyone he meets in the park. Clark has improved services at Fort Casey, such as developing a virtual tour for those guests who are not able to access the lighthouse due to physical limitations. Additionally, he records local community members’ personal histories and their connection to the lighthouse. Clark provided leadership for the largest and highly successful fundraising event for the Keepers — the Haunted Fort held in October.

Outstanding Contribution by Camp Hosts 

Blaine and Becky Housden

Lake Chelan State Park

The Housdens have been hosting since 2016. They are friendly, eager to work and well-liked by staff and visitors. They anticipate customer and park needs and are proactive in meeting them. The pair provides information to the public and works hard to keep the campsites and day-use area clean.

Rookie Host of he Year

Lori Cobb

Sacajawea Historical State Park

Lori Cobb was nominated for this award for her cheerful attitude, unflagging work ethic and flexibility in tackling a multitude of challenging situations. She is known as a team player who does maintenance tasks, warmly welcomes visitors to the park’s Interpretive Center and gardens. Cobb’s experience as a retired State Parks’ office assistant proved invaluable when the park brought on a new interpretive assistant. She meets challenges with positivity, pragmatism and a calm demeanor.

Rookie Host of the Year 

Troye Jarmuth

Fort Flagler Historical State Park

Troye Jarmuth also received a 2018 rookie award. Jarmuth is vigilant in providing the best customer service to every person who comes her way. She maintains a supportive atmosphere regardless of the question or challenge in front of her and displays initiative to assist visitors. She keeps staff informed of campers’ and park needs, and she does so professionally and with a helpful attitude.

Outstanding Contribution by a Volunteer 

Mark Keene

Cama Beach Historical State Park

Mark Keene volunteers as a shuttle driver for Cama Beach, bringing park visitors from their cars to cabins and back. Always willing to help where needed, he participated in cabin maintenance, painting and hanging  holiday lights for the park’s Winterfest celebration. Keene’s friendly and caring demeanor has been a tremendous support to the park. Staff say Keene also motivates them to work harder.

Good Samaritan Award 

Mike and Marcia Barrett

Blake Island Marine State Park

The Barretts have been hosting at Blake Island since 2013, assisting boaters in finding moorage space, selling annual moorage passes and educating boaters about safe boating practices. In 2018, the Barretts helped a group of boy scouts who had paddled in canoes two miles to the island to camp. The young scouts arrived just after dark, and the weather was rainy and windy. Their scout leaders were delayed in arriving because they were organizing the second group of scouts on the mainland. The boys were wet, cold, hungry and had no cell phones that worked. The Barretts fed the scouts, got them warm and dry and offered their cell phone so the boys could call their parents. Once the second group arrived hours later, the Barretts used the situation as an opportunity to educate both the scouts and leaders on safe boating.

Lifetime Achievement Award 

Herb and Jean Klein

Fort Worden Historical State Park

Herb and Jean Klein began camp hosting in 2005 and are retiring from hosting after years of service. All but one of the Kleins’ hosting assignments were at Fort Worden. Their polite, friendly and caring demeanor and their dedication and effort bring campers back to the park each year. The couple has done everything from cleaning campsites to referring visitors to local services and keeping the upper campground organized during the busy Fiddle Tunes Festival.

Washington State Parks Volunteer Program 

State Parks is always looking for qualified, dedicated volunteers for a number of positions. For more information, visit or contact the Volunteer Program at or (360) 902-8583.

– Washington State Parks

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