In the three years that Nerstrand Big Woods State Park has made friends with a group of committed volunteers, the park has seen skyrocketing visitor numbers. It could be coincidence, good weather, or part of the system-wide trend, but the park manager says the friends have been a boon to the park.
The friends have been busy from the get go. “We have a group of people who like to do things,” says the chair of the Friends Group, Katy Gillespie. They’ve helped organize, publicize and provide volunteer support for numerous events, from prairie seed collecting to candle-light skiing and wildflower walks.
Three years ago attendance at the candle-light ski was about 150 people and that number has jumped to 650 last year. “We just feel great that we can support getting more people out here,” says Friends member Emily Nesvold.
The group really wanted more people to discover the unique treasures in this park. “Nerstrand is one of the best parks in the state for spring flowers, for fall colors and for monarch butterflies,” boasts Gillespie.
Currently the group has about 150 people they can send the call out to when volunteers are needed. Another 43 provide financial support and 7 people serve as board members.