Help Friends Groups Help the National Parks

Throughout the year my mailbox is filled with solicitations from various causes, among them national park-related events and projects. Here's a look at just some of the latest you might consider giving to.

The National Park Foundation's Disaster Recovery Fund

As millions of gallons of crude oil continue to flow into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the National Park Foundation is mounting a campaign to raise money to help national park units affected by the disaster.

Give to the “National Parks Disaster Recovery Fund” online or by texting “PARKS” to 90999 on your mobile phone by July 1st. Your money will go DIRECTLY to the parks impacted by the Gulf oil spill.

Yellowstone Association's Legacy for Learning Campaign

Earlier this month the non-profit association opened its 80-acre Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus, which the association acquired for $2.25 million. The year-round facility lies 1 ½ miles from Gardiner, Montana, outside Yellowstone's North Entrance and offers sweeping views of the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park and the surrounding mountains. The campus is exclusively for park visitors participating in Yellowstone Association Institute educational programs.

However, the association has only until this fall to repay the $2.25 million loan. Along with protecting the 80 acres from commercial development, the campus is a great basecamp for those enrolling in the association's programs to learn more about Yellowstone. So far the association has raised a bit more than $1.4 million towards its goal. You can help by donating at this site.

Friends of Acadia

This non-profit group that supports Acadia National Park has a number of projects that go on year-round and could benefit from some added support. For instance, it has a trails program to maintain the park's 130 miles of trails, helps underwrite the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps that brings high school students into the park each summer to work on a wide range of projects, helps support the Island Explorer shuttle buses, and helps fund ongoing maintenance for Acadia's wonderful carriage paths.

The friends group also has helped re-establish connector trails that lead from villages and towns surrounding Acadia into the park, and back in 1997 helped purchase two wheelchair-accessible horse carriages for park use.

You can find a range of ways to support Friends of Acadia at this site.

Rocky Mountain Nature Association

One of the more aggressive non-profit groups when it comes to supporting national parks, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association currently is focused on raising $1 million for its Next Generation campaign, which "promises to expand a host of well-tested educational programs for Rocky Mountain National Park, and establishing an endowment for their future support. Through the development of creative and innovative programs, we are cultivating the next generation as future stewards of our public lands."

Dig a little deeper into the group's website, though, and you'll find ongoing projects to acquire private lands whose acquisition would benefit the park, restore and preserve historic structures, and fund field seminars in the park.

Friends of Wilderness Battlefield

This group is affiliated with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia and works to both provide maintenance on the Wilderness battlefield but also restore Ellwood Manor.

The manor, which dates to about 1790, was pivotal in the Civil War, as battles played out on its lands and flags from both the North and the South had flown over it by war's end. Civil War buffs will tell you that the family cemetery became the burial site for General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson’s amputated left arm.

The group recently was able, with the park's support, to land a $248,000 matching grant from the Centennial Challenge Initiative for design and fabrication of first-floor exhibits that recently were installed at the manor. Now the group is concentrating on restoring four second-floor bedrooms in time for the launching of the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011.

You can donate to the restoration project at this site.

Friends of Mammoth Cave

Though a relatively new friends group, coming into being only in the last three years, this non-profit organization has no shortage of projects on hand. It is working to expand the park's educational programs, helps fund natural and cultural resource management, and works to draw young and old out into the outdoors.

For ways to donate to their efforts, check out this page.

Voyageurs National Park Association

As with more and more friends groups these days, the VNPA not only works to acquire private lands within the park's boundaries but also to address items that lack of federal funding prevents the park staff from accomplishing. Among the work it's been concentrating on recently is habitat restoration.

The group also is actively involved in opposing a hydro-electric project on the Namakan River on grounds that it would impair both the ecology of the region and the wilderness character.

You can find out how to help support VNPA at this site.

These are only a few examples of good park-related causes. In the future we'll try to point to some others. And if you're involved with a park friends group that has a campaign to draw attention to, tell the Traveler about it.