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New Executive Director

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.

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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