To preserve, protect, promote, advocate, and educate about the cultural heritage, history, natural resources and funding needs of Utah State Parks.
The Friends of Utah State Parks was formed in November, 2007, by a group of individuals who shared a passion for Utah’s state parks, with Barbara Riddle as temporary president. The Utah Division of Parks and Recreation provided a $5,000 grant to get the organization going. Dan McConkie was later elected to the office of president.
At this time, FUSP functioned as a board of directors only and had no provision for general membership. In the first few years FUSP’s work in support of state parks included trying to get a “bottle bill” through the Utah legislature. This would have put a deposit on glass and aluminum drink containers at the time of purchase that would be refunded when the empty container was returned. Any profits from the program could be funneled into a grant program for improvements to state parks. Board members garnered some support for this program among legislators, but they could not find a sponsor to run the bill.
The FUSP board met in May, 2011, at Soldier Hollow State Park, to discuss the future of the organization. The Utah Legislature, near the end of the 2011 session, had slashed the State Parks budget disproportionate to other agencies and to the point where closing parks was going to be the only option. The situation was critical. At the meeting, former Utah State Parks Board Chair Jeff Packer pointed out that, to save our parks, the public would have to become more involved. He proposed major changes in FUSP, including changing it to a membership organization. The public had to have a means to become more involved, he reasoned, or our State Parks would soon sustain serious and irreversible damage. The Board members agreed, and Jeff was elected president at this meeting. In the months that followed, the group changed the bylaws and worked out other details based on the new vision.
In the short term, FUSP will be working to reinstate our state parks funding to a sustainable level and on building a strong, enduring Friends organization. In the long term, FUSP will focus on how to secure new funding sources that can help keep our parks affordable to Utahns and at maintaining awareness in the political arena. FUSP remains a work in progress, with a strong vision for the future.