Every forest and park 
needs Friends

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November 29, 2014

The Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network Resources for Starting and Running Friends Groups

The material shared on this page is intended to help friends groups and individuals start, manage and grow a friends group. The information is provided as a courtesy and is not a substitute for legal counsel. The Friends Network does not guarantee the accuracy of the material nor does it accept responsibility for incorrect information (we are volunteers after all). However, friends groups have used the information successfully. We invite friends groups to share information with other groups through the Friends Network. Contact friend@networkingfriends.net.

Starting a Friends Group

If you are thinking about starting a friends group or have any questions regarding friends groups, feel free to contact us at friend@networkingfriends.net. You should also talk to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) park staff and the DCR Partnerships Director Tom Reece.

Tom Reece
Director of Partnerships
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
Email: tom.reece@state.ma.us
Phone: 617-626-4989

Please visit the Friends Network Historical Resources Page for information on steps you can take to preserve historical sites in your forest or park.

Becoming a Non-Profit 501(c)(3)

Do you need to incorporate?

Things to consider before deciding whether or not to become a non-profit organization.

Good sites for information about becoming a non-profit organization

IRS Life Cylce of a Public Charity

Initial Filings for Massachusetts Non-profit

How Do We Form a Non-profit Organization? Forming a Non-profit Organization: A Checklist

Forming a Non-profit Corporation

Yahoo Voices - easy to understand information for starting a non–profit group. Check out, and the list at the right side of the page.

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Steps for Forming a Non Profit

1. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS.

2. Register with the state of MA. You will have to write Articles of Incorporation (examples below).

See Forming a Nonprofit Corporation in Massachusetts

3. Obtain 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status from the IRS

Tax Information for Charitable Organizations

e-file for Charities and Non-Profits

Examples of Bylaws

Friends of Myles Standish State Forest, Inc.

Friends of Upton State Forest, Inc.

Examples of Articles of Incorporation

Sample Articles of Incorporation

Friends of Myles Standish State Forest Articles of Incorporation

Forms for Friends Groups

Liability Waiver Forms (unofficial—but used by friends groups in the hope that the forms will afford some protection)

Membership Forms and Surveys

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Helpful Links

DCR Special Use Permit Application.

Historic Resources in Friends Group Forests and Parks (and how to preserve them)

Watershed Protection Groups

National Park Service Handbook, Making Friends: An Introduction to Building National Park Service Friends Groups.

The Massachusetts Park Watch Program

The Keystone Project

Historic Landscape Preservation Initiative

"Iron Ranger" Donation Containers

Mass Wildlife Speakers, Information and Calendar and More

General Laws of Massachusetts

Massachusetts Land Trusts and Conservation Partners

The Trust for Public Land Park Equity and Public Health Toolkit

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Where is Our Liability Insurance?

In November 2007 Governor Patrick signed into law a bill that gives insurance coverage for friends groups when they hold events and conduct work parties. Friends groups are still waiting for DCR to complete policy that will provide coverage for friends groups.

Law could clear way for parks' revival—Insurance costs impede efforts Peter J. Howe, The Boston Globe, December 4, 2007.

An Act Relative to Volunteers at State Parks

Liability Waiver Forms

Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation uses these forms; 2nd side is like the first, with the line count continuing for hikes with larger numbers of attendees.

Liability Waiver Form Side 1

Liability Waiver Form Side 2

Friends of Upton State Forest uses these forms:

Simple Trail Walk Liability Release

Simple Work Party Liability Release

More About Liability Release Forms

There are situations where a friends group, as with any other group, will have to ask DCR for a special use permit. Certain activities carry a considerable inherent risk and DCR should not be expected to assume that risk if it is outside the scope of what would be normal use of the particular park. Most of the time friends groups are organizing activities that are considered normal use in a park. There are certain events with carnival type equipment (moonwalks) and climbing walls, providing food, etc., that require special permits.

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Membership Forms and Surveys

FMSSF Membership Form

FUSF Membership Form
Friends of Upton State Forest membership form has several categories and usually a discount for joining after August 1 for that membership year. Starting Oct 1 through our Jan meeting we offer discounts for renewals also. That gives incentives to get people started and to renew. Having the different categories has worked very well for us. Associate gets no voting privilege or discounts, just the newsletter.

Friends Groups Survey Suggestions

Friends Group Sample Survey

Let us know if you have a resource to share, email Friends Network Facilitator

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Massachusetts State Resources

nps logo Partnerships

Everything you need to know to start or run a friends group can be found at the National Park Service Partnerships page. Simply substitute "State" for "National" and "DCR" for "NPS" and you will find the Friends Group page most helpful.

DCR logo Mass Park Watch

Massachusetts Park Watch Program
Park Watch is a new statewide program designed by DCR Rangers to help protect forests and parks. Volunteers undergo training for personal safety and learn who best to contact to report suspicious activity. Friends groups working with the Park Watch are hopeful that the program will help curtail illegal and unwanted activity in our forests and parks.

Keystone Project

The Keystone Project
Invests education and reference materials in Keystone Cooperators, who transfer conservation and land management information and ideas to landowners and decision-makers. The 3-day Keystone training focuses on forest ecology and management, wildlife management and land conservation. In addition to the intensive weekend training, participants are also given a significant amount of take-home resources. Room and board are covered with the exception of a modest registration fee. After becoming a Keystone Cooperator, UMass Extension continues to support graduates of the program through Keystone Reunions and Refresher Courses.

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DCR logoHistoric Landscape Preservation

Historic Landscape Preservation Initiative Historic Landscape Preservation Initiative sponsors special initiatives and offers technical assistance and training to support the preservation of historically significant landscapes throughout the Commonwealth. Link to Terra Firma, and other free HLPI publications to help citizens and communities understand and preserve historical landscapes. Available by mail or PDF files.

DCR logo Call for Artists Iron Ranger Program

DCR Seeks Artists to Paint "Iron Ranger" Donation Containers
Iron rangers are metal cylinders used to collect donations in 98 state properties. DCR offers artists the chance to have their artwork displayed in their favorite park. Painting the iron rangers helps generate funds designated to benefit that particular park. Please see Press Release for details. Visit Iron Rangers Across the Commonwealth for a list of parks that need iron rangers painted. If you missed the submission deadline it is time to plan for 2011! The DCR site needs updating. Call Sharon Hoey, Trusts Development Manager, Department of Conservation and Recreation at 617-626-1267, for the latest on painting iron rangers.

masswildlife logo The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife)

Resource for information and speakers on topics having to do with wildlife and recreation. Subscribe to Mass Wildlife News, a free electronic monthly newsletter updating you on research, events, new laws and other agency activities. All you need to do is send an email to: Join-MassWildlife.news@listserv.state.ma.us.

Mass Wildlife serves you from the following offices:
Western District, Pittsfield 413/447-9789; Connecticut Valley District, Belchertown 413/323-7632; Central District, W. Boylston 508/835-3607; Northeast District, Acton 978/263-4347; Southeast District, Bourne 508/759-3406; Mass Wildlife Field Headquarters, Westborough 508/389-6300.

Natural Community Fact Sheets— Excellent fact sheets about natural communities in Massachusetts.

Mass Wildlife Calendar of Events

WMA Wildlife Management Areas run similar to the State Forests. Hunting and family visits with dogs on leash are allowed. This is managed by Mass Wildlife. You'll find Fall River has 2 sites, Holyoke has a new listing. Wildlife Management Area Maps.

A map with all the resources in the State. (click on outdoor recreation map) Maps & Atlases: Mass Wildlife Recreation Maps

Here is a list of Rare Species habitat lands, and water resources available. Mass Wildlife Natural Heritage GIS Resources

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Miscellaneous Resources

Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition

Land Trust and Conservation Resources

General Laws of MA

Here's how to find any state law on the Web. Go to General Laws of Massachusetts. Look for the chapter you want: Chapter 21 for Stewardship Council, Chapter 131 for Fish & Wildlife, Chapter 132 for State Forests, Chapter 132A for State parks and Chapter 92 Section 33 plus for Urban parks (former MDC). You can cut-and-paste and print anything you need.

Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition

The land trust groups work with lands outside of the state forest and park system but if you have one in your area, they can become a great resource and help. Below is a link to a map that will help you find conservation groups in your area. Thank you MLTC.
Land Trusts and Service Providers by Location

The Trust for Public Land Park Equity and Public Health Toolkit

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