Another year has gone by and the Friends of Blue Mound State Park have been busy with several projects and activities. It’s been great to see so many people out in the park in the last year, both on the trail and at FBMSP events.
- We had our annual April membership meeting where we hosted a potluck, did a short review of the year, talked about park priorities with the park managers, and voted on an administrative update to our bylaws to reflect the changing nature of meetings and how we need to operate as a board. Look for information soon about our 2024 annual membership meeting. We also adopted a Code of Conduct and Ethics policy that you can now find on the website. This is a common document for non-profits, and we feel it will guide us in our decisions in combination with a reaffirmed mission statement the board voted on earlier this year.
- Starting about 18 months ago the board began a more concerted effort to draw in membership, and we’re happy to report we’ve surpassed 50 active members in October. The Friends have been financially sustained by the annual Horribly Hilly Hundreds bike event, Blue Mound Trail Run, and donations by members and park users. With this new membership program we’re seeing our membership become a meaningful financial contributor for the organization, and in a more predictable way. Membership programs often take a few years to gain steam, and 50 members in year one is a great start! Learn more about becoming a member or to check your membership status.
- This year represented a change in the management of the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, as Greg Wiegand and the HHH committee took on the herculean effort of understanding the full event logistics in order to both bring significant aspects of the event into board and volunteer management, and to change the race organizer to DuTriRun. The event turned out to be a significant success both day-of and financially, with many riders becoming Friends members or making a donation during registration.
- Early in 2023 the board approved funding for a Digital Content Manager contractor role to cover events and activities over the summer. Catherine Bartels was brought into that role for the summer period, and continued into 2024 as the board approved additional funding for the role. Catherine’s role is to drive increased digital media presence in the form of social media management on Facebook and Instagram, as well as blogs on our website. The role will continue to expand in 2024 with the development and coordination of a regular newsletter and possibly a few other park resources to help visitors get more out of their visit.
- For what to look forward to in 2024, the board has received a Phase 1 matching grant, with potential for two additional phases to rebuild the outdoor amphitheater at the top of the mound. “What amphitheater?” you may be asking, and “exactly” is the answer to that question. Most park visitors are unaware of this facility embedded in the woods near the nature center and children’s playground at the top of the mound. The plan is to perform amphitheater pre-work starting with site surveying, architectural designs, and an electrical upgrade in the spring of 2024. Another project partially funded by grants, is the construction of a new woodshed to replace the old dilapidated one currently located near the park entrance. Both surveys and architectural drawings were completed this fall, with hopes of construction in 2024.
- And last but not least, it’s important to recognize changes on the board. We’ve had Jim Reynolds, a long-time campground host join the board, in addition to Holly Sledge joining the board and taking on the role of Treasurer from long-time Treasurer Gail Van Haren. Gail has been the board treasurer since there was a need in the early days to start tracking organization money and all the associated IRS and state paperwork required for a non-profit. Gail has made a significant contribution to the organization and the park with her many years of contribution in this role, and we thank her immensely for that. Thank you! And lastly, long-time member Mark Gnabasik let his term expire at the annual meeting in April. Mark has been on the board since nearly the beginning, and has provided a significant amount of support in those years. Mark can still be seen helping with parking at events, so while he’s left the board as a Director he continues to be active in the organization. Thank you Mark for your many years of service!
It wouldn’t be a complete end-of-year message if we didn’t mention areas we need help with in 2024 and beyond. The organization continues to become more complicated to reflect the changing administrative landscape of nonprofits and volunteer organizations. We continue to seek new board members who can lend their expertise and experience to the work we’re doing. In addition, we have the following specific opportunities that are less of a commitment than joining the board:
- Membership and Volunteer Coordinator – Send welcome letters, manage the membership and volunteer databases, and solicit volunteers for events like the HHH, candlelight ski/hike, and Blue Mounds trail run.
- Communications and Marketing – Write and develop online content for the website and social media, bolster the digital presence and communications of the Friends.
- Horribly Hilly Hundred volunteers – Everything from pre-event and day-of coordination, being a volunteer or the top-dog manager of a rest stop, merchandise sales, food serving, cheer squads, communication management, task runners, and just about anything you can think of an event might need.
- Firewood Splitting – The Friends supply the firewood for use at the park, and using the gas log splitter to split logs offsets the pre-split firewood we need to buy commercially.
- Prairie and Ecological Management – Volunteers to help with prairie restoration and ecological management work throughout the summer months.
- Grant Coordinator – Manage annual FBMSP grant applications for our naturalist funding, in addition to grants for capital projects like new/updated structures or major park initiatives like prairie or woodlands restoration. Help in sourcing grants to expand initiatives or fund new activities in benefit of the park.
If you are interested in volunteering please contact [email protected] or sign-up to volunteer using the button below.