Chesterton Tribune


The Friends of Indiana Dunes honored for State Park support

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The Friends of Indiana Dunes has been awarded the Partnership of the Year Award by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks and Reservoirs, for its ongoing support of Indiana Dunes State Park.

The award was presented to the Friends of Indiana Dunes at a ceremony in Indianapolis on March 6.

As Property Manager Brandt Baughman noted in his nomination of the Friends, the organization has “continued to maintain a dynamic and vital partnership with Indiana Dunes State Park. Throughout the history of the organization, they have provided an incredible amount of support in several different disciplines, including the programmatic, fiscal, and operational arenas. They were the first Friends group for an Indiana state park, and they should be commended for their longevity and dedication.”

Over the last four years alone, the Friends of Indiana dunes has purchased for use at the park a three all-terrain vehicles, a motorized wheelchair for use by disabled visitors, a Zeiss spotting scope, a telescope, two kayaks, three mountain bikes, wildlife mounts and a sound system for the Nature Center, a laptop computer, a portable public address system, and property signage.

The Friends’ “budgetary expenditures have not only been equipment-related, though,” Baughman said. “Since 2009, they have funded a unique and very successful position at Indiana Dunes State Park: the Outreach Coordinator. Their generosity fully funds this position, including salary, FICA, and expenses. This program allows us to conduct a series of three week-long day camps that are based out of the Nature Center and these have become wildly popular with local children and their parents. The Friends have also provided more than $5,000 in donations to local schools, enabling them to conduct field trips at the state park when they could not otherwise afford to do so.”

The Friends also fund a range of programs. It pays for the services of storytellers and musicians at the park’s special events, for supplies for the Leopold Bench workshops, for materials for the beach glass jewelry programs, for judges and prizes at the sandcastle and campsite decorating contests, and for all bird seed and animal feed expenses.

“The organization has also went above and beyond by providing the avenue for us to keep all of the Bird Observation Platform donations and grants in a dedicated account, and when it came time for the park to access those funds, they kicked in an additional amount which provided enough funding to purchase an interpretive sign for the platform,” Baughman added.

Moreover, the Friends supports “direct” stewardship activities as well. Its annual Native Plant Sale, held every April at the Pavilion, “is not only one of their primary sources of income but also promotes and makes available the utilization of local plant species, and people come from many miles around to take part in this sale,” Baughman said.

“2012 was a high-water mark for the Friends,” Baughman noted. “The combination of an active board, generous donors, wise investments, and sound fiscal management has led to a phenomenal year. The Board recently approached the park due to the fact that they needed to quickly spend $5,000 before the end of the calendar year for 501(c)(3) compliance purposes. The park presented several ‘wish list’ options, including a new Sand Wheelchair and a new ATV, each of which exceeded the specified amount. The Friends, in their generosity and wisdom, recognized the value of each of these requests and not only approved both the Wheelchair and the ATV, but threw in an extra ATV to boot. These purchases totaled over $24,000, and all of the equipment was on-hand in less than a week from the time of the request. This generous donation brought the Friends total expenditures for Indiana Dunes to an amount in excess of $100,000 since 2006.”

“The Friends of Indiana Dunes celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2012,” Baughman said. “This is a significant milestone that could be recognized and celebrated solely on the merits of their lengthy existence. However, they have chosen to not only continue their enthusiastic support, but to expand and increase it as well.”

“The staff of Indiana Dunes State Park is eternally grateful for the immeasurable support and partnership that the Friends of Indiana Dunes have provided, not only this year but in the 29 years that preceded it,” Baughman concluded his nomination.



Posted 3/18/2013