Year one for MT State Parks Foundation Director a victory for parks and the people who use and love them.4 min read

Under new leadership, the MT State Parks Foundation has worked hard to enhance and improve the parks that make Montana a great place to live or visit.

Dear Montana State Parks Supporters,

About a year ago, I was hired to be the first Executive Director of the fledgling Montana State Parks Foundation.  Much credit goes to the original Board of Directors and the Foundation’s first employee, Marne Hayes, of Businesses for Montana Outdoors, for their great work in establishing the Foundation prior to my tenure.

The Foundation I was brought in to lead and grow was at a turning point in its lifecycle.  Our first two years of existence were focused on bringing the challenges Montana State Parks face to the attention of the public, advocating for better parks, and fighting for more secure state funding.  Those causes remain key tenants of what the Montana State Parks Foundation stands for.

However, the Foundation also needed emphasis areas in which it could build credibility, trust, and momentum among citizens, State Park lovers, State Parks staff, legislators, and others.  The Directors of the Foundation and I developed a new strategic plan to guide our organization for the next 5 years. That plan shifted the focus of the Foundation’s efforts and resources toward a more clearly defined mission: The Montana State Parks Foundation raises private support to enhance the visitor experience and build advocates for Montana’s state parks and recreation heritage.

Right away we started working to identify and fund parks-based projects that addressed critical needs and improved the quality of Montana’s State Parks.  In my first year as Executive Director, we raised money from individual donors, grants, business sponsorships, events, and the sale of specialty State Parks license plates.  Then we did exactly what we planned to do, we invested that money back into parks projects including:

  • New visitor information kiosks at Lonepine State Park near Kalispell

  • Park benches, trees, bushes, and native plants for the state’s newest state park, Milltown State Park

  • Trail design and a property boundary survey at Sluice Boxes State Park

  • Trail design and consulting at Makoshika State Park

  • Lending Library and new park benches at Wayfarers State Park

  • Interpretive program equipment at Lonepine State Park

  • Funded a Smith River Ranger Position for 2017

  • Paid for annual property lease at Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

  • Funded the annual meeting of the National Association of State Parks Directors in Missoula, MT in September of 2017

Additionally, we were able to build and improve our Foundation in many important ways. . We developed a sophisticated donor and supporter database and tracking system.  We built a powerful email and social media marketing platform. We developed systems and protocols to manage everything from financial records to volunteer inquiries. We also added a number of tremendously talented and passionate members to our board of directors.  While these types of business structures may not be as exciting as Blackfoot River sinker log benches at a new state park, they are important to the long-term viability of the Foundation and thus to our state park system.

In the year to come, we plan to accomplish much, much more to enhance the visitor experience and improve Montana’s State Parks.  We’ve been working closely to develop and build strong partnerships with conservation organizations such as the Montana Conservation Corps and the Wild Sheep Foundation;  government partners such as the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation and the Billings Tourism Business Improvement District; business partners like onX Maps, River Design Group, and Patagonia; and most importantly, people like you who care about public lands and want Montana to have a great state parks system–one that reflects our renowned reputation as the nation’s leader in outdoor recreation and heritage.

Montana’s State Parks need people like you.  People that are passionate, solutions-oriented, and willing to be a part of positive change.  Without your help, State Parks will continue to face over $22 million dollars in unmet maintenance, infrastructure, and capacity needs.  While the staff and volunteers at Montana State Parks do a great job keeping the parks operating as smooth as they can, they can’t keep holding it all together with duct tape and baling wire forever.

So we have a choice.  We can hope and wait for politicians in Helena and Washington D.C. to stop quibbling over partisan differences and do what is right for our public lands and our state.  Or we can step up and meet the problem head-on. The Montana State Parks Foundation has been and will continue to do the latter by investing private money into critical improvements and enhancements to our State Parks.  We invite you to join us and be a part of the solution.


Coby R. Gierke

Executive Director

Montana State Parks Foundation

400 W. Broadway Ave Suite 100-424

Missoula, MT 59802

Montana State Parks Foundation By the Numbers

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