A new nonprofit group is raising thousands of dollars in an effort to improve and repair Patapsco Valley State Park.
Members of The Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park foundation will help park officials meet public needs where regular budget shortfalls were reducing services and improvements, said James Palmer, president.
The foundation received formal certification as a tax-exempt organization last month, allowing it to become an official fund-raising vehicle for the park, which hugs the river in Carroll, Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
Having collected $14,000, the foundation has made its first purchases: air-conditioning equipment, a fax machine for the park staff, new uniforms for volunteer naturalists and canoeing equipment.
"We wanted sympathetic and dedicated people who wanted to incorporate as a foundation to truly help the park," said Palmer, who is from Ellicott City and works at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in North Laurel. Members mainly live around the park.
Palmer said the foundation will study the park management plan and work with park officials and the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that it is carried out. But the foundation's primary goal is to raise money, not set policy.
"We are helping to fund interpretive programs, improve and repair park facilities and purchase tools and equipment that deflated government budgets cannot afford," Palmer said.
Park officials welcome the help.
"This kind of community involvement is becoming necessary statewide," said Offutt Johnson, park naturalist. "This organization is committed to giving back to the environment in a huge way, and we're going to take advantage of their enthusiasm."
Palmer said the foundation's next goal is to help financially with the renovation of the River of History Conservation Center in the Avalon area near Elkridge and Relay.
The center will chronicle the park's history.
The Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park is the latest in a growing list of about 10 grass-roots conservation groups across Maryland that are helping to fund state park initiatives.
Four conservation groups have been working on behalf of Gunpowder Falls State Park, which stretches through Baltimore and Harford counties.
The Friends of Jerusalem Mill, one of the groups, recently raised thousands of dollars to restore a 1772 mill in Kingsville.
Ann Kernan, park naturalist at Gunpowder Falls, said that members raise money by sponsoring events such as full-moon bike rides through the park, and bake sales.
"What they do is so efficient and effective. Keeping our park open really does depend on these groups," she said. "These groups not only raise money but they are also political, too. They help to rally public attention about issues that affect the parks."
In the wake of recent forest fires across the state, which have damaged some parks, officials remain hopeful that more citizens will form small organizations to aid parks.
"These organizations work," said Dorna Cooper, a park ranger at the State Forest and Park Service in Annapolis. "The people who are involved are helping us to keep our parks throughout the state updated."
Pub Date: 12/01/98