November 29, 2014
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com. You should also talk to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) park staff and the DCR Partnerships Director Tom Reece.
Director of Partnerships
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
√ 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)
Things to consider before deciding whether or not to become a non-profit organization.
Yahoo Voices - easy to understand information for starting a non–profit group. Check out, and the list at the right side of the page.
2. Register with the state of MA. You will have to write Articles of Incorporation (examples below).
3. Obtain 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status from the IRS
Forms for Friends Groups
Liability Waiver Forms (unofficial—but used by friends groups in the hope that the forms will afford some protection)
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.
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.
Friends of Upton State Forest uses these 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.
Membership Forms and Surveys
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.
Massachusetts State Resources
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition
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