PRATT – The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Marc Murrell has been appointed to director of the Great Plains Nature Center (GPNC) in Wichita. The GPNC Steering Committee selected Murrell to take over after former director Jim Mason retired in December.
Murrell has served as the GPNC building manager since the facility opened in 1996. He has worked for KDWPT since 1989, when he served as a public information officer out of the southcentral regional office in Valley Center. Murrell, who is from Topeka, has a bachelor’s degree in fisheries from Kansas State University and worked as a biologist in North Carolina before moving back to Kansas.
The GPNC, located on the southeast corner of Chisholm Creek Park, 6232 E 29th St. N, is the successful result of a unique collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the City of Wichita’s Park and Recreation Department, and KDWPT. This one-of-a-kind facility provides free access to nature education and outdoor experiences in an urban setting. In addition to City, USFWS, and KDWPT staff on the nature center side, the facility also houses KDWPT’s Region 3 office, providing offices for Law Enforcement, Wildlife and Parks division administrative staff and public access to information and license sales.
Another unique aspect of the GPNC – and one reason it has been so successful – is its friends group. The Friends of GPNC is now a consignatory in the memorandum of agreement and administers the employment of three full-time naturalists. Friends group members also operate the gift shop and assist with reception and programs at the nature center, making the facility a truly collaborative effort.
Murrell is just the fourth director of the GPNC since it opened in 1996. City naturalist and renowned wildlife photographer Bob Gress was the first and served until retiring in 2012. The USFWS’s Lorrie Beck took over until she retired in 2015 and the City’s Mason manned the helm until this year.
“I know I have big shoes to fill and have nothing but admiration for what Jim, Lorrie and Bob accomplished here,” Murrell said. “My goals are to carry on this great tradition of providing quality nature education by working with our amazing partners and staff.”
Throughout his career, Murrell has been dedicated to passing on Kansas’ outdoor heritage to generations of young Kansans. This passion, along with his education, experience and love of the outdoors will serve him well as he carries on the nature education tradition of the GPNC.