June 20, 2012
Volunteer group hopes to make state park even better
By GLEN WERLING
It’s a warm spring evening and all of the windows are open in the lodge at Ouabache State Park.
Cottonwood fluff drifts by those windows and occasionally, a walker on one of the trails passes by. It’s another peaceful evening.
But inside the park’s lodge, there’s lively discussion and a real brain storm brewing. A group of people calling themselves Friends of Ouabache are gathered around folding tables discussing the future of the park — as well as its history and current needs.
They are not park employees. Their ages vary from high school to early 80s, but they are united in the mission of helping others encounter the natural wonders found in Ouabache State Park, as well as:
• Organize events and activities for students, individuals, and families
• Help raise funding for improvement projects.
• Help with labor for improvement projects.
• Help maintain the park and trails.
• Increase the awareness of natural conservation and preservation issues.
This is the group’s mission statement: “Friends of Ouabache State Park are stewards of our natural and cultural resources serving our community to provide interpretation and volunteer opportunities, in an effort to remember past contributions and to promote and preserve our park for future generations.”
The concept of a friends group for a state park isn’t new. Around Indiana, a number of similar non-profit groups have sprung up to provide volunteer assistance as well as financial support for the state’s parks, as federal and state assistance for the parks has been cut back in recent years.
At a May meeting Myra Myrtle was elected chairman, Neil Ainslie was elected vice chairman, Marcia Douglass was elected secretary and Julie Lefforge was elected treasurer. They form the first ever board of directors for the group.
As with all groups just starting, financially it has had humble beginnings. Ainslie said at a recent meeting that Friends of the Ouabache had $42 in its savings account and $35 of that was committed toward getting the group started as a non-profit organization — thanks to the assistance of a generous local attorney.
However plans were in place by the group to canvas the park on busy weekends to try and drum up membership and donations. By the time this story is published, the Friends’ fund will likely have grown. Donations, however, are always welcome, as are new members.
The annual cost of membership is $5 for students, $10 for senior citizens, $20 for individuals that don’t fit the first two categories, $30 for families, $50 for non-profit organizations, and $100 for corporations.
Privileges of membership may include a T-shirt, patch, a window cling and refrigerator magnets — however, that all remains under discussion.
The group is planning to seek 501(c)(3) status, Ainslie says.
The group also has a website — OuabacheFriends.org. They meet at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month, at the park lodge. The meeting is open to the public.