Parks & Trails New York (PTNY), the state’s leading advocate for parks and trails, recently released You Gotta Have Friends, a report summarizing the results of a census of the non-profit Friends organizations that support New York’s state parks and historic sites.
A Friends group is a group of individuals who work to support, steward, and promote a park or historic site, or multiple sites. The smallest are all-volunteer organizations, some of which are only loosely organized; others are registered non-profit organizations with regular meetings and bylaws. The largest Friends groups are conservancies and foundations capable of raising large sums of money for the care of their parks and historic sites. Currently there are 90 state park and historic site Friends groups in New York State.
PTNY conducted a census of Friends groups in the winter of 2015-2016. Among the major findings of the census: Friends groups raised nearly $9 million in 2015 and donated more than 10,000 hours of work in preserving and enhancing state parks and historic sites every year. Most of the funds raised go towards capital improvements, programs and events such as I Love My Park Day.
Many groups also provide significant operations support to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP, or State Parks). Programs hosted by Friends groups saw nearly 300,000 visitors. Friends groups do all of this with limited resources; more than half of the responding Friends groups have budgets of $10,000 or less and the vast majority — 70% of those who participated in the census — have no paid staff.
The NY Parks 2020 initiative has committed $900 million of public and private funding to go towards the revitalization of state parks through 2020. There is also two years of support for the innovative NYS Park and Trail Partnership Program, a $500,000 capacity-building grant program for state park and historic Friends groups funded through the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.
In its report, available online, PTNY makes several recommendations based on the results of the census and the most significant needs identified. The recommendations are to:
1. Provide financial resources to build the capacity of Friends groups;
2. Provide opportunities for networking and information-sharing among Friends groups; and
3. Provide opportunities for developing resources and training on non-profit best practices.
For more information about Parks & Trails New York, visit their website.