“Nature at its best.” That’s how Glenna Black describes the view outside her home on Nolin Lake. Since 1991, Black has cherished each day by the lake as she watches eagles and ospreys and listens to the wind in the trees. Black even relishes winters on the lake when snow and ice turn the area into a “winter wonderland.”
Black doesn’t just contentedly enjoy her piece of paradise, however. She actively volunteers so that others can enjoy “her” lake as well.
For the past three years, Black has served as president of Friends of Nolin Lake. Now in 2013, she is on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization created specifically to promote, preserve, and enhance the lake.
“We started Friends of Nolin Lake in the first quarter of 2009,” says Black. “We wanted to bring more activity to the lake, help the businesses, support projects that benefit our natural resources, help keep the lake clean, provide information, and assist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in promoting water safety.”
Volunteers of the Friends group take their volunteer work seriously and already have several successes to their credit.
Carl Suk, retired land manager for Louisville Metro Parks, is a good example. He is conducting a flora study—cataloging, inventorying, mapping, and preserving specimens for scientific study. To date, Suk and his volunteers have cataloged more than 800 species and preserved close to 200 specimens. Suk also assists the Army Corps as a summer park ranger and by leading annual events such as Wildflower Walk (join him on April 13 at Nolin Lake) and Paddle Nolin in May.
Most memorable to Black was a lake cleanup event.
“The Kentucky Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy was there along with several Boy Scout troops,” Black recalls. “The Kentucky Bluegrass ChalleNGe participants were children who have had problems in their lives and are given an opportunity to make their lives better through this program. All the volunteers helped clean up the lake, and as a reward adult volunteers took children on boat rides. Some of these children had never been on a boat and were thrilled at the opportunity. They were so grateful and thankful.”
Black says she will also never forget the Rex Hurt Memorial NolinFest, which attracted 2,000 people and more than 300 boats. The summer event to promote family values featured live music, food vendors, amusements, a classic car show, an assortment of games designed and built by Friends members, as well as free fishing for the children. And fireworks.
“If you have fireworks, you have people,” Black says, so fireworks lit up the sky as the event’s finale that night. “It was fun to hear the oohs and aahs and the boaters sounding their horns in appreciation.”
The event was put on by Friends of Nolin Lake with the support of local and county governments, and the Corps of Engineers. That’s the very kind of public/private partnerships leaders believe are essential in these days of dwindling budgets and escalating needs.
Friends are vital link
The ability to raise funds and the flexibility to use the funds as needed are part of the reason Friends groups are so important, according to Deryck Rodgers, lead park ranger for the Corps of Engineers in Bee Spring, the federal organization that manages Nolin and several other lakes.
“The Friends groups are a vital link and tool for the management of the lakes,” says Rodgers. “They help fill voids and gaps and deliver what customers desire from the lake.
“As a federal government agency, we can’t organize mass shoreline cleanups. We can’t solicit donations from private individuals to improve the lake. We can’t seek grants. The Friends groups can. They can engage the public in ways that we cannot. They complement our management and put a friendly face on everything we do.”
Erin Wright, special programs coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Parks, agrees.
Wright has helped form and nurture many of these groups. She joins with a park manager along with a naturalist or recreation supervisor for the particular lake or park, and collectively they help volunteers establish a board of directors, complete state and federal paperwork, and build their memberships.
This effort started with a foundation endowed by Madeline Novinger, who left a $500,000 bequest and instructions that the money was only to be spent through nonprofit organizations such as Friends groups.
“This created an evolving relationship in which the state and the foundation and the Friends groups work together to help support our parks system,” Wright says. “The Parks Department is affected by the economy just like everyone else, and we are very appreciative and almost dependent on these groups because we are not able to fund things we could years ago. They are playing a greater and greater role.”
Spreading like waves
Fortunately, Friends groups for lakes and state parks are springing up across the state. (See associations of Friends of Kentucky below for more information.)
One of the newest is the Friends of Greenbo Lake, which officially began in January 2012. Bobby Allen, tourism director for Greenup County, was the driving force behind the group’s formation and now serves as its first president.
“It wasn’t that anyone wasn’t trying,” Allen says, “but the lake needed a revitalization in its attractions and an overall cleanup. It’s hard to get that done because there have been budget cuts at the state level. The funds just weren’t there to upgrade and maintain the attractions. Our organization can collect donations and apply those funds directly where they are needed.”
With a year under their belt, the group has already played host to a New Year’s Eve party designed to raise awareness of their efforts, take bids on a zip-line, and are working on establishing a scuba diving refuge within the lake.
“We put the party together in less than a month, and 65 people attended,” Allen says. “That shows the willingness of people to work together. This has the potential to grow exponentially. If we are successful, we will have a better park for people to enjoy, increased tourism, and a better appreciation of how lucky we are to have a state resort park in our county.”
However, like any worthwhile endeavor, there have been challenges. Fishermen objected to the addition of scuba diving in the lake, but it has since moved through the approval process. A grand opening is set for this month with a scuba diving refuge available April through October. The zipline bidding process got tangled up in regulatory issues.
Even so, the controversies led to public forums where people could voice their concerns. Friends of Greenbo Lake has held two such forums already, and that kind of involvement is ultimately the key to encouraging people to protect and enhance Kentucky’s lakes.
PARKS NEED FRIENDS, TOO
Kentucky lakes aren’t the only ones being friended these days. State parks and attractions are also finding they have support in the way of Friends’ groups.
Lake Barkley State Resort Park is a good example. On the northern wall of the pool area outside the lodge is a new addition called the Nature Mural. The 60×12-foot mural features herons, kingfishers, geese, ducks, fox, turtles, and bald eagles along with native flowers, plants, insects, and trees.
“The project is an example of collaboration between the state, local businesses, and nonprofit volunteers to provide for the enjoyment of the community, county, and state visitors,” says Efraim Arrastia, president of the Friends of Lake Barkley State Resort Park. “Through this collaboration, the Friends of Lake Barkley State Resort was able to bring this original, hand-painted artwork to the park for under $250, plus gifts and donations from local businesses.”
Arrastia says the mural provides “an artistic glimpse into the native species that reside in the surrounding area” and hopes it will become a learning tool for young and old alike as people try to identify 120 distinct native items found in the mural.
The mural also provides a glimpse into the good that can come from cooperation and collaboration.
“The Nature Mural will be an asset and a must-see for park visitors,” says John Jordan, manager of Lake Barkley State Resort Park. “Everyone here at the park appreciates everything this Friends group provides above and beyond what could be expected.”
Following is a listing of established Friends associations for Kentucky lakes and state parks along with contact information if you’d like to join or learn more.
If a group doesn’t already exist, learn how to form your own lake or state park Friends group by contacting Erin Wright at Kentucky Department of Parks, (502) 564-4940 ext. 233 or e-mail her at
Associations of Friends of Kentucky Lakes and State Parks
Cherokee Historical State Resort Park of Aurora Inc.
Dr. Nancy Dawson
Facebook.com, search “Friends of Cherokee State Park”
My Old Kentucky Home State Park Foundation Inc.
Dr. Harry Spalding or Alice Heaton
PO Box 323, Bardstown KY 40004
501 East Stephen Foster Avenue, Bardstown, KY 40004
(502) 348-8178 (Harry Spalding); (502) 348-3502 (Alice Heaton)
Friends of Lake Barkley State Resort Park
Blue Licks Commemorative Commission Inc.
www.battleofbluelicks.org (Click Enter Site, then Friends at top right)
Friends of Columbus-Belmont State Park
Facebook.com, search “Friends of Columbus-Belmont State Park”www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Columbus-Belmont-State-Park/188763291229060?ref=ts&fref=ts
Friends of Pennyrile Foundation Inc.
Friends of Jefferson Davis Historic Site Inc.
Kincaid Park Development Foundation Inc.
Friends of Greenbo Lake State Resort Park
Facebook.com, search “Friends of Greenbo Lake State Resort Park”
Natural Bridge State Park Association
Friends of Levi (Levi Jackson State Park)
This group is currently in the process of reviving their nonprofit status and has no activities planned until that process is complete.
The Friends of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site
Chad Greene or Joan House
E-mail Chad Green at firstname.lastname@example.org; Joan House at email@example.com
Friends of Taylorsville Lake State Park
There is a comprehensive listing of Friends Associations at www.kystateparksfoundation.org
If an association does not have its own Web site listed, please refer to this site.