Greenbrier State Park’s swimming and pollination highlight “Small Grants, Big Impact” awards

19 January 2024- 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. 

Locally funded projects for 2024 projects are:

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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.