Collaboration, fundraising and strategic planning were among objectives examined during the second-ever statewide conference of the Friends of State Parks (FSP) on Wednesday in Raleigh.
Members of the parks support group as well as leaders of friends groups dedicated to specific state parks heard 14 speakers on a broad range of topics along with brief addresses by Brad Ives, assistant secretary for natural resources in the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis and N.C. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown.
It was an opportunity for supporters of individual parks, FSP members, Park advisory committee representatives and state parks administrators to exchange ideas on broadening support for the mission of the agency. FSP President David Pearson moderated the event, including a panel discussion on “Fundraising and Attracting Volunteers.” State Parks Director Lewis Ledford gave an update on parks system activities in advance of the centennial of the system n 2016. And, a session on strategic planning was held by Nancy Walters, a retired U.S. Forest Service administrator who helped form Friends of Chimney Rock.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Friends of State Parks, which held its first statewide conference in 2011 at Nag’s Head. In recent years, FSP has grown dramatically and begun active support of such programs as Junior Ranger and YIP-EE, an effort to sponsor school field trips to state parks. The organization has also helped with the launch of 11 park-specific friends groups in the past three years.
“We are proud to promote positive recreational use of parklands, advocate for new contributions of land and resources to the system, lobby against any actions deemed potentially damaging to the natural character of parks and support the educational programs about the natural features of the parks,” Pearson said.
The conference also featured presentations of videos about three state parks developed by the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communications, a legislative reception and a tour of the new Nature Research Center, which houses the headquarters of the state parks system.