Onondaga Friends Association

General Report January 2018

MISSION

The Mission of Onondaga Friends Association (OFA) is to raise awareness, provide education, and increase appreciation of our caves and the unique surrounding ecological environment that is Onondaga Cave State Park (OCSP). OFA assists OCSP to engage and educate the public, with emphasis on local communities.

WHAT OFA DOES

The purpose of OFA is to assist Onondaga Cave State Park (OCSP) in its mission to protect, preserve and enhance Missouri’s natural and cultural resources by filling in where we are needed most.  We help fund short-term projects and educational events and staff them mostly with volunteers, and OFA raises money with member contributions and fundraising events.

 

ORGANIZATIONAL OVERVIEW

Onondaga Friends Association became a non-profit 501(c)3 in 2011 and has made great strides! OFA has:

  • Increased receipts, starting from $250 in 2010!

2013 = $  8,550
2014 = $  7,900
2015 = $ 12,335
2016 = $ 12,403
2017 = $  11,160

  • Invested in equipment to help the Park acquire things for which they may not otherwise have funding:

Helmets – for public caving adventures at OFA/Park-sponsored events
Lanterns – for Historical Cave Lantern Tours
Underwater/caving camera – for public caving tours
Sound system/Microphone – for announcements at events. Paid by grant.
iPad – enabling credit card payments via wifi connection
GPS – used for locating remote cameras and significant markers
Sling psychrometer – used in data collection; measures cave humidity
Wildlife remote cameras – used in data collection
NEW!! WIFI at the Visitor Center – provided as a courtesy to the public and will allow OFA to accept credit card payment at events

  • Increased Memberships and Donor/Sponsorships, particularly as we establish our Midsummer Night Member event, and OFA efforts become known. OFA events promote local musicians and artists and teach cultural and environmental education.
  • Attracted more people to Onondaga Cave State Park (OCSP), with emphasis on local residents, many of whom have not been to the Park in decades, if ever.
  • Brought environmental and resource education, in conjunction with OCSP, to local children and adults through programs such as Green Fest, Earth Day and Cave Conservation Corps.
  • Helped local non-profits with in-kind donations.

Giving Back to the Community: OFA and OCSP collected canned food and money for local food pantries at some of the OFA/Park events. For a few years now we have had a shoe drive through Shoe Man Water Projects, which provides access to clean water in impoverished areas in the U.S. and globally.

 

MOTHER NATURE’S INFLUENCE IS FELT IN THE PARK

The bats using Onondaga Cave have been devastated due to the White Nose Syndrome. Bat numbers have plummeted each year since White Nose spread to the caves here in Missouri. Every effort has been implemented to minimize human impact of possibly spreading the fungus spores; however, it is known that the fungus is spread primarily bat-to-bat. In the bat surveys prior to WNS, Onondaga Cave was used by approximately 1000 bats. The number has dropped each year from 2012, and as of the January 2018 bat survey, 34 bats are using Onondaga Cave.

Flooding has become more commonplace at the Park, and in 2017 the Park pavilion was ruined in the flood that Spring. The shelter was not salvageable, and Park staff took the remains down. It is unclear if or when it will be replaced, which is unfortunate, since the pavilion has been a mainstay at the Park, providing an excellent service building for the public, and an observation area for the spring-fed Onondaga Lake.

 

ACHIEVEMENTS

Through the dedication of State Park staff and Friends group volunteers, Onondaga Cave State Park received top recognition in a couple of areas, marking OCSP as the “Sustainability” park in Missouri State Parks.

  • In 2016, Onondaga Cave State Park was one of five organizations to receive recognition from the Ozark Solid Waste Management District for hard work and efforts in Sustainability and Environmental Education through our Park Events and Activities!
  • OCSP received the Recycling Award in 2015, competing with all Missouri agencies. That year, the Park kept over 6,000 pounds of waste OUT of the local landfill and has continued in its recycling efforts. Park recycling consists of plastic, paper, cardboard, glass and tin, as well as batteries, fluorescent lights and ink cartridges, and we sponsor electronics and appliance drives at the Green Fest.

 

PUBLIC INTEREST IN THE PARK

State Park attendance tumbled in 2008 when the country experienced a financial contraction and tourism slowed. After a couple years, people began taking more local vacations; the OFA, under fresh efforts and new non-profit status in 2011, began to help the Park reach more people, with particular emphasis on reaching local residents, schools and businesses.

Gradually tourism, particularly local tourism, has increased. The majority of the Friends group membership at this time is from local communities within 150 miles of OCSP.

 

LOOKING FORWARD

OFA’s goal has always been to engage the public, local and tourist. Our events are unique, fun and educational and will continue to be. Our efforts will be increasingly focused on cultivating volunteerism and personal investment in this public park. More of what is on the horizon for 2018-2020:

  • Community and Caves: Renovation & Cultural projects along Blue Heron Trail, beginning 2018
  • Outdoor Education Classroom, with more native pollinator plantings, bat and bird nesting boxes and observation areas along the Blue Heron Trail
  • Continued and greater emphasis on fitness and inclusiveness with projected Inclusive Park Playground, hopefully in FY 2020.
  • Recycle Sculpture Park, continued installations. The “Ghost Tree” was the first installation completed in 2016 by the Bourbon Art Club
  • Historical Archives, continued collection

Many Thanks to everyone for their love of and dedication to Onondaga Cave State Park! Your volunteerism and monetary donations are very much appreciated!