Our Awardees - In their own words

Chestnut Ridge Conservancy

A $1,500 PTNY Growing the Grassroots grant made it possible for Erie County’s Chestnut Ridge Conservancy to produce two eye-catching full-color, eight-page editions of the organization’s newsletter, the Ridge Times. As the newsletters were widely circulated throughout the county, they served as an important membership recruitment and primary marketing vehicle for the Conservancy at a time when they were undertaking their first major project, the restoration and conservation of the five murals painted in 1948 on the interior walls of the Chestnut Ridge Park Casino.

“Since being awarded the PTNY grant, the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy has made great strides in increasing our visibility and importance in Western New York. We are extremely proud of our progress and look forward to an even more successful 2014. Your financial support has helped us promote our efforts to all of Erie County.” William C. Even, Chestnut Ridge Conservancy Marketing Consultant

New York City Water Trail Association

In 2013, the New York City Water Trail Association (NYCWTA) decided to establish membership fees and use tide wheels as a tool not only to solicit memberships but also inform the public about the safe use of the New York City Water Trail system. The group used a $1,000 PTNY Growing the Grassroots grant to fund the printing.

“Many of the groups and individuals who joined were directed to the group’s website after receiving a tide wheel at a water event or from members of their paddling or rowing club. We were also able to provide a valuable tool for the users of NYC waterways and get our organization better known by occasional users of the waterways as well as politicians and agencies on the local, state and federal level. We look forward to a long and mutually rewarding relationship between NYCWTA and PTNY.” Phil Giller, New York City Water Trail Association

Friends of Letchworth State Park

$2,550 Growing the Grassroots grant from PTNY has made a major difference in the visibility and energy of the Friends of Letchworth State Park. The western New York park friends group has used the funds and in-kind donations to undertake several projects, each involving images donated by a professional photographer, which have resulted in a dramatic increase in memberships, donations, website hits, Facebook members, and additional grants.

In the last year, the group’s membership grew by 30% and donations went from $2,700 to more than $18,000. The Friends also credit PTNY’s grant for helping them receive a $3,000 Every Day Capacity Building Grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation and a $16,200 state grant through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.

“These are all certainly wonderful accomplishments for us in themselves, but perhaps the greatest achievement we have seen as a result of PTNY’s grant has occurred within our group itself. The size of our Board has increased from eight to 16 members. The enthusiasm, interest, involvement, and momentum has increased substantially as we have realized more and more that we are positively affecting our beloved park with the projects we are taking on. We are so excited to see how far we’ve come and what we have been able to accomplish.” Carol Rathbun, President, Friends of Letchworth State Park

Winona Forest Recreation Association

A $1,4000 PTNY Growing the Grassroots grant awarded to the Winona Forest Recreation Association made it possible to print and distribute brochures and newsletters to solicit members and donations to aid the group in their efforts to promote and maintain trails in Winona State Forest in Tug Hill.

Brochures were placed in 30 area business and distributed by the Oswego County tourism bureau. Newsletters were mailed to past and present members and placed at local businesses. As a result, volunteers have increased by 10% and donations have jumped by 15%. “Thank you for the opportunity to grow our organization.” Carolyn Rees, President, Winona Forest Recreation Association

Friends of Schodack Island State Park

The Friends of Schodack Island State Park, Inc. used a $1,000 grant and many donated services to establish a new website and create membership rack cards to improve communication with members and increase membership and community participation in activities and events at the Hudson River park.

“We are seeing one to two Friends memberships coming in each month as a result of the rack cards and website views are now 400 to 500 per month.” Daniel O’Dell, President, Friends of Schodack Island State Park, Inc.

Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage

The Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage, Inc. used a $1,200 grant from PTNY to place ads in local publications to help recruit tour guides to assist with interpretation of the Adirondack cottage where President Grant spent his final days. The group received almost 30 inquiries and ultimately gained 12 new volunteers.

“The grant was such a success for us that immediately following the public announcement of our receipt of the funds for our volunteer recruitment effort, we began receiving calls from interested individuals.” Jonathan Duda, Executive Director, Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage

Great Swamp Conservancy

A $1,500 PTNY Growing the Grassroots capacity building grant helped Central New York’sGreat Swamp Conservancy, Inc. spread the word more widely about their efforts to assist landowners in managing 6,000 acres restored by USDA/NRCS as "Forever Wild" on the south eastern shore of Oneida Lake. Grant funds were used to produce a new membership brochure and full-color newsletters. Volunteer efforts to widely distribute these new materials have resulted in membership growth of 40%, 10 new volunteers, and a doubling of attendance at some events.

“We now have professional products that we are proud to distribute. We are very thankful for PTNY’s assistance” Michael Patane, President, Great Swamp Conservancy

Friends of the Chemung River Watershed

A PTNY Growing the Grassroots grant helped the Friends of the Chemung River Watersheddevelop their fundraising skills, leading to some remarkable results. The group used the grant to hire a consultant who trained the organization’s board and staff and advised them on solicitation letters and mailing list development. As a result, in the last year the group raised $12,327 and increased annual membership by 83%.

“We now have the knowledge, experience, and resources to expand and improve our fundraising goals which will allow us to improve our ability to protect and maintain our waterways and riverside trails.” Jim Pfiffer, Executive Director, Friends of the Chemung River Watershed

Gantry Plaza

Using a $2,600 Growing the Grassroots grant from PTNY, the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park printed and mailed a postcard introducing the group and its new website to 12,500 households surrounding the Long Island City-based park. Cards were also made available in businesses and apartment buildings and at events in and around the park. As a result, the number of newsletter subscribers increased 105%, the group raised an additional $1,000 in donations, and attracted a new member who is helping with a strategic plan and marketing efforts.

“Both the postcards and the fact of being awarded a grant from Parks & Trails New York have raised awareness and increased our prestige. The grant has been an important milestone for our group and gave us the impetus to seek out donations from local developers who benefit directly from being on the park. Our plan is to continue to hammer away at the process of getting our name out there and drawing in people and organizations dedicated to preserving this beautiful park.” Bill Bylewski, President, Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park, Inc.

Friends of Minekill and Max V. Sha ul State Parks

Thanks to a $2,000 Growing the Grassroots grant from PTNY, the Friends of Minekill and Max V. Sha ul State Parks in the Schoharie Valley have a new logo, website and membership brochure which have given the group greater visibility and support. After the membership brochure was mailed to local residents and made available at park events, membership increased 160 percent.

“Prior to receiving the Growing the Grassroots grant, we struggled to attract and hold new members. The grant allowed us to present ourselves more professionally and breathed new life into our group.” Brenda Weaver, President, Friends of Minekill and Max V. Shaul State Parks

Northville-Placid Chapter of Adirondack Mountain Club

A logo and membership brochure, made possible by a PTNY Growing the Grassroots Capacity Building grant, helped the newly-formed Northville-Placid Trail chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club with its efforts to attract members and volunteers. The club assists NYSDEC with stewardship of the 133-mile trail that traverses some of the most remote sections of the Adirondack Park.

“ADK is deeply grateful to PTNY for its assistance with this project – building capacity of the Northville-Placid Trail chapter ensures the improvement and protection of the trail over time.” Deb Zak, Director of Membership and Development, Adirondack Mountain Club

Kingston Land Trust

The Kingston Land Trust (KLT) used a $1,000 PTNY Growing the Grassroots Capacity Building grant to develop a positioning statement, branding strategy, logo and tagline. The attractive materials are helping KLT’s Rail Trail Committee promote and create a green, non-motorized alternative that will allow local citizens and visitors to explore and connect with neighborhoods and regional recreational opportunities.

“With all that is happening for trails within the City, the timing could not have been better for this grant which has helped us set our course in a clear way for expanded outreach and constituency building.” Gregg Swanzey, Chairperson, KLT Rail Trail Committee

Saratoga Mountain Bike Association

The Saratoga Mountain Bike Association (SMBA) used some of its Growing the Grassroots grant to allow key members to complete chainsaw certification and first aid training necessary for their ongoing trail stewardship activities. However, after much deliberation and guidance from PTNY, the group’s leaders decided not to produce a membership brochure as initially intended but instead to better strengthen their efforts by using grant funds to achieve federal 501c(3) status.

“SMBA has grown tremendously as an organization and our board of directors has gained a great deal of knowledge while working on our grant-related projects. Our members are better informed, and our club has grown into an active trail steward working for mountain bikers in New York’s Capital Region. We sincerely wish to thank Parks & Trails New York for working with us to achieve this goal.” Christopher Morris, Vice-President, Saratoga Mountain Bike Association

Battenkill Conservancy

Washington County’s Battenkill Conservancy used its PTNY Growing the Grassroots grant to update its website and launch a year-long effort to increase membership and outreach. In-kind donations were especially helpful as they made it possible for the Conservancy to upgrade its materials and expand its efforts while staying within the original budget as it continues efforts to preserve and enhance the Battenkill watershed.

“We received 11 in-kind donations, nine sponsors, more than 200 volunteer hours spread out among 10 distinct events, two new board members, support from the Chamber of Commerce for additional grants, and two new partnerships as a result of our increased visibility. In one year, our website surged to nearly 60,000 hits.” Lorraine Merghart Ballard, board member, Battenkill Conservancy

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative

When the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) submitted its capacity grant proposal to PTNY, very few of the organization’s 2500 e-newsletter subscribers were annual donors, despite the fact they participated in events, tours, and workshops. BGI used its $2250 capacity grant to upgrade its website with a new membership page and design and print an engaging and colorful promotional and membership brochure for the organization. As a result, in 2010, BGI added almost 1700 additional names to its newsletter list (an increase of 66%) and doubled its membership.

“We knew that building a strong membership base would be essential to insuring the long-term success of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, but we needed dedicated funding to jump-start the process. The capacity grant from Parks & Trails New York was the perfect catalyst.” - BGI Director of Programs Meg Fellerath

Owasco Flats Nature Reserve

Thanks to a capacity building grant from PTNY, the nonprofit Owasco Flats Nature Reserve has a new logo, newsletter template, family-friendly information kiosk designs, and its first member newsletter in three years.

“We loved the logo that we used for the past 30 years, however, we recently realized that in order to communicate to our members, we needed to go digital, with a new digital logo, a digital newsletter and web blog. A capacity grant from Parks & Trails New York allowed us to better communicate the opportunities available in the Owasco Flats Nature Reserve. Our hope is to grow a foundation of support amongst youth, families and communities. We sincerely thank PTNY for giving us the opportunity to expand and improve our organization and our community outreach. The grant has allowed our organization to grow, conduct outreach in the digital age, and improve our trail system at the Owasco Flats Nature Reserve.” - Sandie Doran, Chairperson of the Owasco Flats Nature Reserve.

Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail, Inc.

Capacity grant funds helped Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail (ECRT) create and distribute 1000 “Become A Supporter” business cards and 3500 “Become A Supporter” post cards. The distribution was made through person-to-person contact and through display stands placed in local businesses and government buildings. ECRT also purchased a 36” standing display banner for use at events, meetings and presentations.

“Our objective is to build public and political support for the proposed trail, but with five very different towns, some in favor and some fearful, we need outreach programs that target diverse interests. Having the capacity grant dollars has allowed us to develop individualized strategic communication materials that are so vital to addressing many different community concerns and has helped us generate a broad base of committed, enthusiastic supporters in every community along the corridor.” - Anne Bergantz, ECRT Chairperson

Association for Conservation of Recreational and Natural Spaces

The Association for Conservation of Recreational and Natural Spaces (ACORNS) used their capacity grant to produce a banner and a membership brochure. As a result, the group has attracted a new patron level member ($100) and their first life member ($500), added 50 new names to their newsletter mailing list (an increase of 9%), and enjoyed overflow attendance at several public events.

Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve

The Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve’s capacity grant allowed the group undertake its first concerted effort to raise public awareness of the park as a valuable community resource and gain support for the work of the Friends on behalf of the park. Funds were used to print a new brochure and purchase and create a tabletop display for use at public events.

“The publicity materials supported by the grant have greatly helped us to promote the Preserve and our work. Our membership increased by 23% from 416 in December 2009 to 512 in December 2010. This is a significant gain considering that in the past two years the organization’s member base was decreasing by five percent.” - Edith Wilson, board member

Friends of Rockland Lake and Hook Mountain, Inc.

The membership campaign made possible by the Park and Trails capacity building grant generated a 50% increase in membership renewals and number of new members from 2009 to 2010, resulting in the greatest one-year membership revenue increase in the group’s seven-year history.

“As a small all-volunteer non-profit, support from an organization like Park and Trail’s is so very important.” -
Robert Maher, President

Friends of Taconic State Park

The Friends of Taconic State Park used their capacity building grant to hire a marketing and membership development consultant to help the group undertake a membership mailing and a major member cultivation event and create marketing materials for community events.

“We have been humbled and slightly incredulous at the extraordinary response to our membership outreach. As of the end of September 2010 we met our goal of adding 100 new members and by January 2011 we reached 184. I truly believe that winning the Columbia County Heritage Award was the result of our increased publicity and outreach efforts, neither of which would have been possible without your support.” - Deborah Cohen, treasurer

“The Friends of Taconic State Park also realized a completely unexpected benefit as a result of receiving the Parks & Trails New York capacity building grant: two fund-raising consultants held training workshops for us at no charge. Both firms told us that although they do not normally take on clients as small as FTSP, they were so impressed with what we are doing that they wanted to help in some way. We really believe we learned a lot as a result of both workshops! Thank you Parks & Trails New York for helping us take this very important next step in our development.”
- Deborah Cohen, Treasurer, Friends of Taconic State Park

Friends of the Robert Moses State Park Nature Center, Inc.

“The capacity grants definitely made a difference. The (member and community) survey alone was such an important next step after completing our five-year strategic plan but we never would have been able to do it without the capacity grant. Then getting such a positive response from the surveys shows the Friends group that people feel we are on the right track.”
- Mary Danboise, Friends of the Robert Moses State Park Nature Center, Inc.

Friends of Van Cortlandt Park

“The community forum series would not have been accomplished without the capacity grants. The funding allowed us to do advertising and outreach which made a difference in allowing us to reach new audiences. Everyone who attended said they came because they saw an ad in the local paper. If we hadn’t placed those ads, I’d have been sitting in a room by myself.”

“Over the last year, the capacity grant and other grants we have received have allowed us to undertake outreach activities that have increased our membership numbers and tripled our number of volunteers. It’s been a great year for us.”
- Christina Taylor, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park

Friends of the Rail Trail

“A capacity grant from PTNY allowed us to get started quickly and get mobilized. It was the impetus that helped our committee get organized faster than we would have otherwise. Without the grant it would have taken us a couple of years to get where we are today. Our work is only just beginning, but the grant has indeed helped build our capacity better than I imagined was possible. Thank you!"
- Dan Rain, Friends of the Rail Trail

Trail Works, Inc.

“The capacity grants gave us the support and impetus we needed to expand our focus. Previously, we consisted of members in two towns and put all our energies there despite the fact that we were supposed to be a county-wide group. But with the capacity grant funds we did presentations about Trail Works at the libraries in every town and hosted a variety of speakers in locations throughout the county. As a result we not only have a great increase in the number of members, they also come from many other towns.”
- Carol May, Trail Works, Inc.