It’s good to have friends and even better when those friends raise awareness about something bigger than themselves.
That’s what the Friends of Mistletoe State Park has been doing since 2008, when the chapter was chartered under the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.
“Our parent organization has as its mission to partner with, promote and preserve Georgia state parks and historic sites statewide,” said Friends of Mistletoe State Park secretary Marilyn Grau. “Friends works to raise awareness of the economic and intrinsic values of Georgia’s greatest resource.”
There are more than 50 chapters in the state, Grau said, and Friends members “work with state and community leaders to help make sure that our natural and cultural resources are well protected, well maintained and well preserved for generations to come.”
An annual Friends membership ranges from $30 for an individual senior membership to $75 for a family membership.
“In addition to helping make the parks a better place, Friends members also receive a lot of direct benefits that come with membership,” said Grau. “Among them are an annual park pass, annual historic site pass, overnight stay discount, retail gift shop discount, a free golf or camping pass and SAM Shortline discounts.”
Additionally, for every documented hour that is volunteered at Mistletoe, whether by a Friends member or not, the Friends of Georgia State Parks gives $2, up to a certain amount, to the local chapter.
“And for every Friends membership that’s sold in the park office, our chapter also gets a share,” said Grau. “So we have funds that we can use to purchase things for the park that the park couldn’t include in its budget.”
Among some of the projects Friends memberships have helped fund are maintenance equipment, disposal of timber from an old fishing pier, the park’s annual Family Festival and Children’s Fishing Rodeo and publicizing park events through a quarterly newsletter. Friends has also set aside funds for a low-water boat ramp.
While many members join because of the benefits, Grau hopes those members become actively involved in park events and programs.
“People usually join Friends because they can get a discount on their camping experience, not so much because they want affiliation with a particular park, except in some areas of the state,” said Sheryl Silva, president of the Friends of Mistletoe State Park. “Chattahoochee Bend is an example. They had tons of Friends members before they even had a park.”
Friends members are encouraged to “stay in contact with their local politicians and let them know what projects are being worked on, which is something the state employees aren’t able to do,” said Silva. “The thought is that the more the locals know about what is going on in a particular park, the more they can support it legislatively.
For more information about becoming a member of the Friends of Mistletoe State Park, visit the Georgia Friends at http://friendsofgastateparks.org or call the Mistletoe State Park office at (706) 541-0321.