June 19, 2024

Friends of Maryland State Parks Provides Funds for Projects Through ‘Small Grants, Big Impact!’ – Southern Maryland News Net

An innovative approach to litter prevention at Janes Island State Park is among the Maryland Park Service initiatives funded by ‘Small Grants, Big Impact!’ Photo by Anthony Burrows, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Friends of Maryland State Parks recently awarded 24 grants totaling $41,798 to Maryland State Parks statewide through the advocacy organization’s program, “Small Grants, Big Impact!”

These funds will enable staff to collaborate with community partners to provide information on Maryland’s cultural history, replace unsafe bridges and puncheons, provide water safety resources, and promote recycling and stewardship on our public lands.

“Our park rangers and staff are getting more creative every year, submitting projects that provide an additional benefit for park visitors,” said Chuck Hecker, board president of Friends of Maryland State Parks. “We have funded seventy-three projects since the ‘Small Grants, Big Impact’ program started four years ago, for a total of $113,334.”

The Friends of Maryland State Parks has increased funding 207% since the program began ($13,619 in 2021 to $41,798 in 2024). At least one state park in each of the four state park regions has applied for and received a grant every year.

Launched in 2020, the Small Grants, Big Impact was designed to inspire people from all backgrounds to connect with, celebrate, and support Maryland’s State Parks and their community-based programs.

Through its Small Grants program, the nonprofit provides $2,000 grants to state parks to help them achieve their mission of excellence, bringing smiles to park rangers and visitors alike.

This year’s funding exceeds last year’s allocation by 30%, which can be attributed to an increase in contributions.

Funded projects for 2024 projects are:

Assateague State Park

Horse safety signs
Assateague State Park is designing two interpretive panels to educate park patrons about the history of the park’s wild horses, where to find them on the island, and how to safely coexist with them during the visit.

Bohemia River State Park

‘Middle School Bioblitz – We Need A Ride!’
Bohemia River State Park will use funds to transport 155 students from Bohemia Manor Middle School to Bohemia River State Park to conduct two comparison Bioblitzes, which provide a communal citizen-science effort to record as many species as possible in a short time frame within a designated location.

Cedarville State Forest (managed by Rosaryville State Park staff)

Trail puncheons
The Park Service will replace aging puncheons on the Blue and Brown trails at Cedarville State Forest.

Green Trail bridge resurfacing

The Park Service will replace tread boards on a 20-foot bridge on the Green Trail at Cedarville State Forest and to add curbing. The bridge provides recreation opportunities for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.

Cunningham Falls State Park

Aviary improvements –  snapping turtle enclosure
The park will renovate the outdoor summer enclosure of Edmund, a snapping turtle and popular animal ambassador. This renovation will allow the park staff and aviary volunteers to abide by new USDA regulations regarding wildlife care facilities.

Cypress Branch State Park

Archery 101
This archery program aims to make archery more accessible as well as provides opportunities for students and families to participate in an activity together, outside, and sets the foundation for a new skill.

Deep Creek Lake State Park

Discovery Center educational enhancements
This work will connect the center amenities with the natural resources in the surrounding park and greater Garrett County. Staff will purchase new signage for the current “in flight” display in the Discovery Center and purchase new sets of binoculars and field guides for adults and children to use during birding programs led by park rangers and park naturalists.

Statewide Work Group

Maryland Park Service regional outreach
The Maryland Park Service’s initiative on Diversity, Engagement, Inclusion, and Justice will purchase basic, branded setups (canopies, tables, tablecloths) in order to be more visible and self-sufficient at local events such as community fairs and job fairs.

Franklin Point State Park

Branded entrance signs
Park staff will purchase and install wooden Maryland Park Service branded signs from Maryland Correctional Enterprises as dictated by state procurement guidelines. The signs will clarify where visitors are, meet branding requirements, and improve the aesthetic atmosphere of the park, as well as help improve access to this underutilized park.

Gathland State Park

Sign frames for Battle of South Mountain waysides
A new interpretive trail is being developed that will extend the current trail at Gathland State Park. The current trail as well as the new extension will be located in Cramptons Gap, an important area where the Battle of South Mountain occurred. Installation of three sign frames in order to mount new interpretive signs that will help join the existing trail and the new trail into one interpretive and educational story.

Greenbrier State Park

Beachfront native pollinator garden
The park will develop an 84-plant native pollinator garden within a designated section of the park. The goals of this project are to exemplify a beautiful native garden to the public along a heavily trafficked route and support a pollinator population for the benefit of local habitats.

Swim buoys
Greenbrier State Park has about 1,000 linear feet of beachfront. That beachfront is marked with small swim ropes and buoys that signify the protective swim area. The Department of Natural Resources will also add larger marker-style buoys that alert boaters and fishermen that they are approaching a swim area.

Gunpowder Falls State Park

Dundee Creek interpretive panels and fishing line recycling station
The park will increase the public access to fishing at the Dundee Creek Marina by creating a visible access point. This project will have a big impact by further delineating the popular fishing area, introducing fish identification to the park users, and promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Harriet Tubman State Park

Back deck interpretation
The park will install two 8-foot portable benches made from recycled plastic on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center back deck. The addition of two benches will assist with interpretation aspects of the park with ranger programs. Additionally, the benches on the back deck will enhance the visitor experience.

Janes Island State Park

‘Eliminating cigarette litter, one vote at a time’
Cigarette litter is a constant problem at Janes Island State Park. Due to its location along the salt marsh, there is an increased need in fighting this toxic issue in order to preserve not only our mainland ecosystem, but the marine life that attracts visitors to the park. This project will establish a new, innovative way to reduce cigarette litter called at Ballot Bin which allows visitors to ‘vote’ with their litter. The box has an interchangeable question and has two options leading to separate columns to ‘vote’ with the cigarette butts. While the primary aim will be reducing cigarette litter, the voting mechanic of the bins will create a new outlet to engage visitors.

Pocomoke River State Park

Scales & Tales aviary enhancement and renovations
To meet new USDA regulations, the aviary needs replacement of door fixtures, hinges, locks, and some portions of the rat wire that have rusted and show signs of wear, plus replace a rusty and outdated refrigerator. The aviary also needs added shelving and new counters. A sink with two separate areas will need to be purchased as well. This grant would drastically help the park to bring its beloved aviary up to standard and help foster a safe and healthy environment for their education ambassadors.

Point Lookout State Park

Nature Nook rejuvenation
The park will develop educational initiatives centered around the beachfront Nature Nook, catering to a majority 400,000 yearly visitors. Through this grant, the park will be able to paint and replace the roof on this building to meet Maryland Park Service standards for public facilities and modernize and rejuvenate the exhibits inside this building.

Rocky Gap State Park

Interpretive aviary signage
The park will create permanent interpretive signage for the park’s aviary building.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People
The park will create and expand program opportunities for its Healthy Parks, Healthy People program.

Rosaryville State Park

Perimeter Trail bridge
The park will install a bridge to connect a rerouted portion of the trail back to the main loop. The reroute was dug by Eagle Scouts in summer 2023. The park would look to partner with other volunteer and/or youth organizations to help foster stewardship and volunteerism in our community. The Perimeter Trail is the primary trail at Rosaryville State Park and would benefit hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian users.

Sandy Point State Park

Water safety outreach
Funds local outreach on water safety and to recruit seasonal lifeguards to provide safety for the beachgoers at Sandy Point State Park, the park is requesting funds to purchase supplies for park programs, park special events, festivals, local county events, and career fairs. The continued shortage of lifeguards is a pressing issue at Sandy Point. By investing in recruiting startup supplies, we are actively working to combat this shortage and ensure that Sandy Point remains safe and well-guarded.

South Mountain State Battlefield

Sign frames for South Mountain Inn interpretive waysides
The historic South Mountain Inn was recently acquired and requires stabilization and restoration. Once research of the building’s history is complete, interpretive signs will be created and mounted in wayside frames near the building for visitors to learn how and why the building is being conserved.

Swallow Falls State Park

Tree replenishment
This project will replenish native trees in a section of the old-growth forest near Muddy Creek Falls at Swallow Falls State Park. The area to be rehabilitated is a short trail and an overlook that are no longer safe for public use. Rehabilitating this area of the park will help to conserve natural lands, prevent soil erosion, promote biodiversity, benefit wildlife, and enhance the visitor experience through aesthetic appeal.

Tawes Garden (Maintained by Sandy Point State Park staff)

Maryland native plant identification signs
These signs will provide identification of pollinator habitat plants located in the Tawes Pollinator Demonstration Garden (also known as Plant Mural) at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources headquarters. Tawes Garden Native Pollinator Plants signs will provide identification for park guests and school groups, and serve as templates for other pollinator demonstration gardens in Maryland Park Service being funded through Project Butterfly and Bumblebee.

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