Friends of State Parks energizes for centennial

On the eve of the state parks system’s centennial, the nonprofit Friends of State Parks has developed a strategic plan that will help it become a more effective advocate for state parks in North Carolina.

“We need to grow up, mature and celebrate this birthday,” Mary Penny Kelley, president of the organization, told members during its annual conference in Raleigh Tuesday. The strategic plan, she said, concentrates on developing “superpowers” to reach its goals.

David Pearson, left, executive director of Friends of State Parks and Jim Richardson, board member, are recognized during the annual meeting.
David Pearson, left, executive director of Friends of State Parks, and Jim Richardson, board member, are recognized during the annual meeting.

The statewide Friends of State Parks has been actively involved in centennial planning and will lead an effort to gather corporate and citizen support of the year-long celebration in 2016.

Mike Murphy, director of the state parks, said the centennial is a premier opportunity to leverage publicity for support of state parks as well as its varied friends groups. The opportunity, he said, “gives us a way to speak to leadership about the value of parks and the need to fund them.”

Murphy detailed centennial plans, which include special events at every state park and signature events at Mount Mitchell and Fort Macon. More detail came from Sean Higgins, head of the parks system’s education program who is coordinating those events, and from MSA, a Raleigh-based firm developing a marketing strategy for the centennial.

In recent years, Friends of State Parks has nurtured its role as an umbrella organization, helping local friends groups organize to support individual parks. It has also increased funding for education programs such as the Junior Rangers and school field trips. In 2014, it hired former president Dave Pearson as an executive director.

Click here to find out more about Friends of State Parks and how to become a member.

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