What is a Friends group? How do they help our national parks? How many are there? Good questions.
Of the 423 units managed by the National Park Service, over half have supporting partner organizations or “Friends” groups. From Friends of Acadia to Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Friends of Virgin Islands, these groups support their parks in a diverse array of ways – from fundraising for the preservation of historic structures to organizing cadres of volunteers to plant gardens, clear trails, even pick up litter. Each year, the efforts of these combined groups contribute over $400 million in direct and in-kind support to our national parks and focus the efforts of over 100,000 volunteers.
With our four pillars of Accessibility, Education, Service, and Stewardship, Friends of the Apostle Islands, founded in 2002, has raised over $600,000 to support the efforts of the staff of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore helping with everything from the installation of bear boxes to keep both campers and wildlife safe to purchasing the Junior Ranger badges that thrill youngsters every year inspiring a whole new generation of park supporters. Our volunteers plant beach grass to stabilize fragile sandscapes and help raise money to support the park in important accessibility initiatives that make the Apostles more welcoming to everyone.
“Its like that old Beatles song,” Executive Director Jeff Rennicke says, “our park ‘gets by’ and gets better with a little help from Friends.”
To learn more about these islands and the work of Friends of the Apostle Islands, watch our new five-minute video highlighting our efforts. And then join us. After all, like the song says, we all need a little help from our Friends.
Jeff Rennicke is Executive Director of the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. He is also an educator, outdoor adventure travel writer and photographer.