11 Things You Didn’t Know About Friends of Georgia State Parks

Raise your hand if you LOVE our Georgia State Parks. Me! Me! Me! And I bet you do, too!

Georgia is home to nearly 50 state parks, each offering outdoor enthusiasts varying landscapes to explore — like mountains, canyons, lakes, waterfalls, gorges, swamps, and more. At Georgia State Parks you’ll find miles of hiking trails, biking, boating, camping, disc golf, fishing, golfing, paddling, swimming, nature watching, and plenty of history.

11 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT FRIENDS OF GEORGIA STATE PARKS
Courtesy of Friends of Georgia State Parks

Friends of Georgia State Parks works to ensure resources are well protected, maintained, and well preserved for generations to enjoy. The mission of Friends is to partner with, promote and preserve Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. 

Preserving and maintaining the parks is so important, but it can’t be done alone. It takes a great group of friends: Friends of Georgia State Parks…and you. Your membership, gift membership, donations, and volunteer efforts allow Friends of Georgia State Parks to support our park system and historical sites.

Here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about Friends of Georgia State Parks, including why their efforts are so important. And bonus: There’s a coupon code for 365 readers to save on a membership!

THESE BEST FRIENDS ARE NOT RELATED

Friends of Georgia State Parks is an organization independent of the Georgia State Parks system. Friends of Georgia State Parks receives no federal or state funding and no grants, and they are not a government body.

Friends offers partnerships and support to the park system. Their mission is to promote and preserve Georgia State Parks, raising awareness of the value that our state parks provide to the community – both economically and inherently.

GEORGIA GREAT PLACES MAGAZINE

They publish a magazine, Georgia’s Great Places, twice per year. It’s available to members, but you can also pick up a free copy at a state park, historic site, or visitor center.

I read this magazine from cover to cover every time a new issue is released! There are great topics covered in each issue, such as an awesome piece about helping connect kids with nature, a guide to birding in the state, and a wonderful backstory on Camp Lawton, which we really enjoyed when visiting Magnolia Springs.

STATE AND LOCAL PARK ASSISTANCE

More than 50 chapters work with their respective sites to support individual projects and programs, including raising funds to support local projects and programs that help make our parks and historic sites some of the best in the nation.

Statewide friends works to raise awareness of the economic and intrinsic values of Georgia’s greatest treasures, and of Georgia’s natural and cultural resources. They work with state and community leaders to inform them of the needs of the parks and the importance of preserving the Georgia State Parks historic heritage.

Friends works on statewide projects, but it’s also the umbrella organization for 50 chapters around the state. These chapter organizations are based at specific state parks, and they support projects and raise funds just for that park.

Friends is entirely supported by its members and donors. If there is a particular park that you love, consider joining the Friends chapter. Select the park you are interested in helping, then click the “Become a Member” button, choose your membership level, and complete the form on the page to join a Chapter mailing list and learn about upcoming volunteer efforts.

$1.9 MILLION IN VOLUNTEER HOURS

Last year, volunteers contributed more than 75,000 volunteer hours. That equates to an in-kind value of over $1.5 million!

Want to be a part of the volunteer efforts? You can click here to visit the park you are interested in helping, then sign up to receive notifications about volunteer opportunities.

FRIENDS LEADS EFFORTS TO GET KIDS OUTSIDE

Friends has several events per park and statewide to get kids outside!

Fish-N-Learn Program: Children, ages 8–15, and their supervisors are invited to a weekend of learning about fishing through their Fish-n-Learn Education Program. Classes include Equipment and Casting Techniques, Regulations, Biology and Habitat and more. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of time set aside for fishing!

Keeping Georgia Wild Family Festival: This fun festival is held once a year at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, about 45 minutes southeast of Atlanta. Free admission includes an array of activities that focus on Georgia wildlife, conservation, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Kids can try archery, fishing, shooting sports, tree climbing, and mini-boat rides led by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ conservation rangers.

There are individual events at each Georgia State Park too. Pick your park and check their schedule!

FRIENDS RECEIVES NO TAX FUNDING

Think about what we discussed so far…outdoor classrooms, new trails in the parks, removal of overgrown vegetation. Those efforts are not managed by the state park system and your tax dollars…they happen because of your membership with Friends and your volunteer efforts. Friends is a 501c3 non-profit charity that relies 100% on members and donors; they receive no state funds and no tax funds and no grant money.

Here’s what I love…90 cents of every dollar contributed goes to their programs and services. That’s incredible! Those services include programming and volunteer support, education and outreach.

JUST LIKE A GEORGIA STATE ANNUAL PASS…ONLY BETTER

Already considering an Annual Pass with Georgia State Parks? Not a problem! For only a small amount more you can add to those benefits by selecting the Friends of Georgia State Parks Membership. It includes more perks than your regular state park pass, but doesn’t take anything from them. (It only helps!)

In addition to your GSP parking pass, you’ll receive 25% off admission to Historic Sites, 10% retail discounts, 10% off overnight stays, free golf or overnight camping, discounts on the SAM Shortline and a subscription to Georgia’s Great Places. And guess what? All of that starts at only $5 more than your GSP annual pass.

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING

Did you know that you can give a Friends membership as a gift? It comes in a beautiful gift certificate sleeve, and it is the perfect gift. If you want to make a purchase of five or more, you can even receive a bulk discount.

FRIENDS HELPED BUILD 50+ POLLINATOR GARDENS

The state-wide Butterfly Build project added new pollinator gardens to more than 50 state parks and historic sites. Want to do this in your own backyard with the kids? Follow steps on the Friends website to bring the benefits to your own garden.

GEORGIA STATE PARKS DAY BRINGS PARKS ALIVE FOR EVERYONE

Your State Parks Day is Georgia’s annual celebration of National Public Lands Day — the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands. Volunteers enjoy free park admission, as well as dozens of family-friendly activities throughout the day such as kayaking, tree climbing, archery and more.

Also on this day is the opportunity for families to help with volunteer projects, like building pollinator gardens, planting native wildflowers, cleaning up campgrounds and much more. Once you see the difference you can make, feel the comradery with other nature-lovers and sense the importance of a single project, you’ll want to participate throughout the year as well!

MAKE A DIFFERENCE…AND SAVE

My family and I are committed to Friends of Georgia State Parks. Georgia’s state parks are where my children have fun, learn, grow and connect with nature. We want you to be a part of that community…to support the efforts being made and the intrinsic value of these sacred lands. We are happy to share that Friends is offering a 10% discount to 365 Atlanta Family readers by using the discount code 365ATLANTA.  That means that your Individual Friends Membership is less than an Annual Park Pass!

Remember, your membership (plus donations and volunteer work) supports Friends’ Outdoor Discovery and Environmental Education, Volunteers at Every Park, Access for All, Preservation & Enhancement, and the Celebration of History and Culture in the Georgia State Park System.

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11 Things You Didn’t Know About Friends of Georgia State Parks