The Friends of Tims Ford State Park is a nonprofit organization assisting the park and its rangers with fundraising, events and more.
“There are 56 state parks in Tennessee and 44 of them have a friends group,” Dalton Smith, park ranger and the friends group liaison, said. “In the past year, the groups have collectively contributed almost $250,000 in funds to their parks and over 40,000 hours of volunteer work.”
“The friends group has been around for many years. However, the board members we had moved away and the group became defunct for about a year,” Park Manager Shawn Settle said. “The original group was fairly restrictive when it came to what they helped the park with. They really only assisted with animal care. We house raptors and rotate them out, and the friend group only helped us out with that.”
“With this new group, we wanted to change the bylaws a little bit so that they are able to help us with anything such as a new trail, cabin renovations and more. So far, one of the biggest things that they’ve helped with is programming so that we have more events and are able to contribute more to Coffee, Franklin and Moore counties,” Settle said.
The friends group heavily assisted with this year’s Heritage Days at the park as well as the trunk-or-treat on Halloween. They will continue with the assistance by putting on an inaugural color run on Veteran’s Day this year as well as a Christmas Market in December.
“We want the community to tell us what they would like to see,” Settle said. “We want to give back to our community and the friends group makes sure that we keep the community’s best interest in mind.”
“Since we have started the friends group back up, we now have a full board. We have had two membership drives. The first one was a fish fry that we co-hosted with the park,” friends group secretary BayLee Smith said. “We also used the park’s annual Heritage Days Festival to set up a table and held a small raffle. We ended up getting almost double the amount of memberships in those two days.”
“We only have five rangers, so big events are hard to pull off without volunteers,” Settle said. “The friends group has been very beneficial in that we have the numbers to pull off the fun events that we have always wanted to do.”
“The park always holds a Christmas event where Santa comes and they serve cookies to the kids. We sat down and talked about how our group could make it bigger, and decided that asking vendors to come and sell Christmas items was a good idea,” Smith said. “Right now, we have about 11 vendors signed up to come including Three Sisters Candle Company, Home Thrown Pottery, the park’s gift shop, companies selling baked goods, and more. The market will be all day, starting at 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the recreational hall on the park grounds. Santa is set to arrive at 5 p.m. and the rangers will read a Christmas story.
The group meets once a month and they are always open to the public. Anyone interested in signing up can contact their Facebook page or go to a meeting to fill out an application. There are annual membership dues, beginning one year from the day it is paid, as follows: students pay $10 with a valid identification card, individual memberships are $20, family memberships are $35, and business sponsorships are $100. Due-paying members are eligible to run for executive board positions and vote during official meetings. They also receive a free T-shirt with paid dues. All dues go toward funding projects on Tims Ford State Park. Members must be 18 years or older to vote at meetings.
“As far as how much volunteer time is required, I tell everyone that you can do however much as you want. There are no requirements although we encourage our members to volunteer the time that they can and attend the meetings in order to have their opinion heard. You also don’t have to be local to be a member. We have some now from as far as Brentwood that are helping,” Smith said.
For more information about Friend of Tims Ford State Park and how to get involved, email FriendsofFTSP@gmail.com or visit and message their Facebook page “Friends of Tims Ford State Park.”
Katelyn Lawson may be reached at email@example.com.