Foundation that aids state parks will restructure
February 28, 2008
Near the entrance to a heavily wooded park, and across from Lake Tahoe, a small section of office space is being vacated today.
Susan Fitzgerald Reichert, the Executive Director for the non-profit organization Sierra State Parks Foundation will serve her last day today in the Sugar Pine State Park office building she has occupied for five years.
Reichert was the first employee and the only executive director for the board-run organization, according to board member Ron Treabess.
He said the money, about $50,000 annually, that will be freed up from the director’s salary will be used to supplement other areas of the foundation.
Much of what Riechert did, grant writing and developing the membership arm of the foundation, will now be done by contract or part-time employees, Treabess said.
Reichert and Treabess say they have been pondering the transition for the better part of a year and now was the right time to dissolve the position.
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The foundation, which raised $761,973 in 2006 for the eight parks they represent, is the fifth largest such organization in the state, Riechert said.
“Were it not for our cooperating organizations we would not have the variety of parks open and our visitor centers would be closed more and activities would be fewer and opportunities for school children would be reduced,” said John Mott, manager for the California State Parks Cooperating Associations Program.
Eighty-one organizations raise and contribute funds through grants and other fundraising activities, according to Mott. Last year they raised 16.2 million collectively, he said.
The money is significant, considering California’s impending $16 billion deficit, which will translate into $17 million in cuts to state parks, according to a California Department of Parks and Recreation fact sheet.
Among other achievements, under Reichert’s watch the Sierra State Parks Foundation doubled its support to the Sierra District of State Parks for “education, interpretation, restoration and preservation,” she said.
“This was due mainly to an increase in sales income,” Riechert explained in a note on her accomplishments. “Including the opening of two new retail locations, and the creation of a membership fundraising program with Leonard Nimoy as [the foundation’s] first member.”
Retail locations are important, said Treabess, explaining the store at Donner Memorial State Park raises $65,000-$80,000 annually.
Mott said a restructuring within a foundation like this “is an unusual occurrence,” but he said he has the “great respect” for both Reichert and the board of directors and their decisions are free of his supervision.
Riechert will continue to live in the area and be involved in consulting to local cooperating associations and nonprofits. She may still work with the foundation in a more limited capacity as well as training personnel at the training faculty in Asilomar.
Reichert continues to serve as a board member of the California League of Park Associations and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.