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  • 05 February 2024 8:00 AM | Jim Richardson (Administrator)

    Michelle Merritt Leonard has been named the executive director of North Carolina Friends of State Parks. The appointment was announced by Tim Aydlett, president of the organization’s board of directors. “Michelle has been involved in land conservation and outdoor education initiatives in North Carolina for over 25 years,” said Aydlett. “She brings a wealth of experience, dedication and focus to her new position, and we know we will reach new heights under her guidance and leadership.”

    Most recently, Leonard served as the major gifts officer and government affairs manager for the outdoor education program Muddy Sneakers. She has deep roots in North Carolina and enjoys working with people across the state to build community around conservation and preservation projects.

    In her new role at NCFSP, Leonard will be working with a committed board of directors to manage daily operations and strategy of the organization while working with parks, state park officials and members to meet the needs of the state park system.

    Leonard lives in the small town of Bethania in Forsyth County where she serves as mayor pro-tem. “I am excited to accept the position of executive director and am looking forward to visiting the members and parks from Gorges State Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in 2024 and beyond,” said Leonard. She may be reached at

    The NCFSP and its local chapters protect and care for North Carolina State Parks through advocacy, support, and education. Its purpose is to serve the mission and needs of the state park system as an independent nonprofit organization and act as a source of park information and environmental education to the general public.

  • 28 December 2023 11:51 AM | Jim Richardson (Administrator)

    RALEIGH – The North Carolina Friends of State Parks organization marked its 50th anniversary with a celebration at the Nature Research Center in Raleigh on November 18, 2023. A major highlight of the event was the presentation of North Carolina’s highest civilian award to longtime state parks supporter Jim Richardson.

    Richardson, a board member for the past 25 years and a past president of the FSP, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine as designated by Governor Roy Cooper. In his remarks, current board president Tim Aydlett lauded Richardson for his dedication to State Parks and his devotion to the citizens of North Carolina.

    Also receiving awards at the gala were Colleen Bowers of Carvers Creek State Park, recognized as the Superintendent of the Year, Catherine Thompson-Ferreira of Mount Mitchell State Park, Office Assistant of the Year, Herbert Mathias of Merchants Millpond State Park, Maintenance Staff of the Year, and William Holman, nominated by Hammocks Beach State Park, Volunteer of the Year.ammocks Beach State Par Ha

    The FSP Legislator of the Year Award was presented to Rep. Kyle Hall R-Forsyth, who represents District 91 in the North Carolina General Assembly. Rep. Hall, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has been a strong advocate for parks funding and conservation initiatives, designating Dan River in Stokes County as an official state trail, supporting efforts to build canoe and kayak access, and supporting the expansion of Mayo River State Park by 1,000 acres. For his efforts, Rep. Hall has also been recognized by the NC Wildlife Federation as it 2023 Legislator of the Year.

    President Aydlett shared the history and impact of the Friends of State Parks over its 50-yearhirtory, and Tom Earnhardt delivered the keynote address. Earnhardt, an attorney and documentary videographer, narrated the 2016 PBS production of “Saving the Best, 100 Years of State Parks.” In his remarks Earnhardt emphasized the need to regrow wild areas in North Carolina and praised the state parks system for its leadership in the effort.

    The purpose of the North Carolina Friends of State Parks is “to serve the mission and needs of the North Carolina State Park system as an independent, nonprofit advocate, provide support at the local level through NCFSP chapters, and act as a source of park information and environmental education to the general public.”

    “And we should add getting kids in our naturally wonderful parks is a priority of ours,” said Aydlett. “Our parks are a vital resource for all of our state’s citizens, and as we celebrate50 years of our organization, we know that the next 50 years will be even more impactful in protecting and sharing the natural beauty and blessings of our beloved state.” 

  • 18 November 2022 9:00 AM | David Pearson

    Raleigh – At the Friends of State Parks Annual meeting, the membership elected a new president along with officers and directors to lead the organization for the next two years.

    The annual membership meeting was held at William B Umstead State Park on October 29, 2022, at 10:00am.  Members voted to elected Tim Aydlett, as President, Steve Shelton as 1st Vice President, Michelle Leonard, 2nd Vice President, and Mary Jaeger-Gale is joining the FSP board as a director.

    Long time FSP member Tim Aydlett from Elizabeth City, NC, was elected FSP president.  Tim, a retired Perquimans County school principal brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to the office.  Along with FSP, Tim is a founding member of Friends of Dismal Swamp and Albemarle Conservation, a chapter of the NC Wildlife Federation.  Tim is a current board member of NC Beautiful and served on the NC Audubon board and the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund from 2004 until 2010.  Tim is a certified Environmental Educator and received the Governor’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his contributions to conservation and education across North Carolina.

    Lewisville resident Steve Shelton, a successful Winston-Salem business owner will serve as 1st Vice President.  Steve has volunteered his time as an FSP board member and has served on the Novant Health Foundation Board, BBB of NWNC and Winston-Salem Street School.

    Michelle Leonard serves as 2nd Vice President and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the FSP board.  She is currently a town commissioner for the town of Bethania and serves as the Mayor Pro Tem.  Michelle has also served on the Blue Ridge Conservancy, Piedmont Land Conservancy, Audubon NC, Wachovia Historical Society, and Agricultural Extension Agency Winston-Salem Advisory Board to name a few.

    Mary Jaeger-Gale, of Henderson County, joins the FSP board as a director.  Mary’s leadership skill and knowledge has been demonstrated with Chimney Rock Management, LLC as Chairman of the Board for the Chimney Rock attraction. Mary currently serves as 1st VP of the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority.  Other associations include the Southern Highlands Attractions Association, NC Travel Industry Association, Southeast Tourism Society, and the federally designated Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

  • 22 July 2014 4:48 PM | David Pearson

    As its director, Murphy will oversee the state’s 35 parks and four recreation areas, 20 natural areas, seven lakes, four rivers and four state trails – all told, nearly 220,000 acres of land and water. Murphy succeeds Lewis Ledford, who retired after 37 years of service to the state parks system. Murphy assumes his duties July 22.

  • 01 July 2014 4:49 PM | David Pearson

    Spring FSP Newsletter Online Map Guide, Funding,YIP-EE and news from the parks and local groups 

    2014 Spring.pdf

Friends of State Parks, Inc.

PO Box 182

Bethania, NC  27010

Friends of State Parks, Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 58-1634155) under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

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