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By George E. Buckingham

With help from Charles Wells


 In 1989, Crater Lake National Park was forced to close the historic Crater Lake Lodge due to severe structural safety concerns.  During the next six years of planning and reconstruction, Superintendent Dave Morris determined that a Friends group would be advantageous to the park.  He also came up with a strategy to ‘kick off’ the formation of such a group coincident with the dedication of the newly reconstructed lodge.

 Superintendent Morris formed an ad hoc group of interested citizens and an interim Board was selected.  Those were:  Chuck Wells, Mary Din, Paul Pearson, Laree Linder, Bev Hartell, Carol Oxley and Wayne Howe.  Chuck Wells, assisted by Chief of Interpretation Kent Taylor, drafted the applications for Articles of incorporation for an Oregon non-profit organization and the IRS application for designation as a 501 (c) (3) Tax Exempt status organization.  Bylaws were also developed and approved by the membership.  Chief Ranger George Buckingham was asked to serve as Liaison between the Park and the Friends.

 The first annual membership meeting was held on September 25, 1993.  The membership chair (Laree Linder) reported that the group consisted of 73 memberships for a total of 93 members.  At that meeting the first Board was elected:  Chuck Wells-President, Bev Hartell-Vice President, Mary Erickson-Secretary/Treasurer, Frank Erickson-Ass’t.Secretary/Treasurer, Laree Linder-Membership Chair, Carol Oxley-Newsletter/Correspondence, Wayne Howe, Jack Bennett, and Paul Pearson

 During the first year, the Friends engaged in a number of projects, notably the completion of a trail connecting Rim Village with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thus enabling hikers to hike along the rim of Crater Lake.  To do this, the Friends constructed a new section of trail from North Junction to the PCT.  From this project, a tradition of an annual “Project Weekend” developed.  Most, but not all such weekends have been spent working trails.  Specific projects included trail work on the PCT, Annie Springs Trail (twice), Dutton Creek Trail, a re-route at the Crater Peak Trailhead (twice), constructed two different bridges across Annie Creek, installed signs, Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, Historic District trail, installed bear-proof storage lockers at Lost Creek Campground, rehabilitated trails at North Junction, painted the Annie Springs Entrance Station and the South Entrance Sign posts, assisted with dedication of a U-Haul mural, performed traffic control for a large inter-agency SAR training program, assisted with dedication of the Plaikni Falls Trail, rehab of the Sun Notch trail system and trail work at Plaikni Falls.

 The second annual meeting of the Friends occurred on October 22, 1994.  By that time, the lodge reconstruction was complete, but the building had not opened to the public.  This was the first formal use of the new lodge.  That event was used as a major membership drive and was very successful.  The sign up sheet lists 73 people attending, the largest number of Friends ever to gather together in one place.  Memberships grew to 158 memberships, 203 members.  At that second annual meeting, another tradition began.  Chief Interpreter Kent Taylor asked the Friends to take on a Winter Information Desk operation.  This tradition continues.  In 2008 long time Crater Lake fan and former seasonal Park Ranger Larry Smith took on the coordination of this project which has been extremely successful.  He also developed and produced a number of displays based on common questions asked by winter park visitors.  Funds ($1,500) to build these exhibits were donated by the Friends.

 By the third annual meeting in 1994, memberships grew to 215 memberships, 275 members.  By that meeting, the Friends had agreed to ‘adopt’ the Crater Lake Ski Patrol as a project.  The Friends handled the Ski Patrol funds, much as a bookkeeper would, but had no decision making role with the Ski Patrol.  In 2008, this arrangement was terminated.  The Ski Patrol provides a Friends Board member.     

 A concomitant effort was the fire lookout program on both the Mount Scott and Watchman lookouts.  These were staffed by volunteers and served three functions:  1) Relief of limited Park Ranger Staff for other duties and off days; 2) in-depth familiarization of participating Friends with the whole Park and its surrounds and beyond; and 3) lookouts in teams also provided considerable interpretation to visitors. Participating members thought this was one of the primary contributions to both the Park and the visitors.  However, this program was terminated by a new Superintendent as was the idea of a fire interpretation center in the Watchman Lookout, which Friends had advocated for.  Extensive efforts were also made to formulate a formal Memorandum of Understanding (first initiated by Superintendent Morris) with the park, but this effort also failed.

 One of the early interests of the Friends was the establishment of some kind of research/educational center.  The idea did not receive NPS support, but interestingly enough, in 2005, resurrected itself into the park sponsored Science and Learning Center.  The Friends did sponsor some Field Seminar Programs, several of which were designed to accommodate public school teachers for in-service degree credit through Southern Oregon State (continuance of this program was also discouraged by Park management).  Ironically, the present Science and Learning Center was a direct output of the park Centennial Celebration which itself was given life and form by the Friends.  The result is a much stronger and more solidly based research/learning program than the Friends itself could have managed.

 David Atkins, an attorney and proprietor of Non-Profit Support Services in Eugene was engaged to assist with obtaining our ‘Final Letter of Determination’ from the IRS.  This procedure is required within five years after receiving ‘Interim Status.  He also provided some excellent board training.  He continues to be our attorney although we have not used him in some time.

 By 1997 the Friends had begun discussing and planning for a major celebration recognizing the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Crater Lake National Park.  A number of projects were proposed including a symposium inviting a large number of participants from all aspects of the region.  This symposium was very successful and generated a large amount of interest in the surrounding communities.  The actual celebration itself eventually became a park-organized affair.  The role of the Friends during the celebration was to organize and run an Alumni Reunion.  Over 500 people attended this reunion.  A mailing to those attendees resulted in 25 new memberships.

 The Friends adopted a logo in the 1990’s.  This logo was based on a photograph of the lake.  While very attractive, it does not “print well”.  During the Centennial Celebration, the park commissioned a Centennial logo and has since encouraged Crater Lake National Park partners, such as the Friends, to use a slight modification of that logo.  The Friends has adopted that logo and has gradually replaced the original logo on its stationary, envelopes, newsletters, etc.

 The Friends has been mailing newsletters to its members since 1993.  During the 1990’s a concept of regional meetings was begun.  The concept seems to have lost steam during the past few years, but may well be resurrected.

 In 1998 the Friends sponsored a Cycle Oregon rest stop at Kerr Notch, earning some money ($500 donation) and having a great time.  A later (2004) Cycle Oregon trip to Crater Lake also resulted in the Friends sponsoring a lunch stop at Rim Village.  The weather was awful, but Friends volunteers persevered through wind, rain and cold to serve hundreds of hot lunches to hypothermic cyclists.  In 2007, the Friends once again sponsored a lunch stop (At North Junction the weather was wonderful this time!) and secured another nice donation from Cycle Oregon.  Again, in 2012, the Friends sponsored a lunch stop (Mazama Village), worked hard and earned a Cycle Oregon donation.  However, the donation was $1,500 rather than $2,500 each from the previous two lunch stop events.

 Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Boundary are two projects that the Friends have taken on.  These are good tasks for those who like to get out and about in the park.  Participation in the adopt-a-trail program is low but steady.  Adopt-a-boundary needs more attention, to say the least.  These two projects are on hold at present.

 Past and present Resource Management projects include the re-establishment of a rare plant at Sphagnum Bog (collomia mazama) and eradication of exotic plants at Highway 62 south entrance and at Spruce Lake.

 With the advent of new management in 1998, a new relationship with the park began.  The formal MOU, now called a General Agreement, was signed in 2003.  The park asked the Friends to adopt four programs and to operate these, more or less, exclusively.  These are Winter Information Desk, Adopt-a-boundary, Adopt-a-Trail, and Roving Rim Interpretation.  To facilitate the recruitment of volunteers the park has provided quarters to Friends volunteers performing these activities.

 The General Agreement, for the first time, establishes a basis for the Friends to engage in soliciting and accepting donations and making donations to the park.  A number of donations have been accepted from individuals and corporations.  The Friends have made donations of interpretive displays, safety signs, Ski Patrol outerwear, Artists-in-Residence housing, Classroom-in-the Park transportation, restoration of historic pictures, history book, PBS Crater Lake film, a play script, etc..  Donations have a specific purpose attached to them.  We applied for a grant from the Cycle Oregon Fund to provide Automatic Defibrillators (and training) for park patrol vehicles.  This did not materialize.

 Funding for Friends activities comes primarily from membership dues.  Hence, the role of the Membership Chairperson is critical.  Early on, a computerized database of members was created.  This has enabled the organization to maintain contact with its members on a fairly consistent basis.  As with all databases, it is only as good as the information entered, so constant maintenance is necessary.  However, the effort pays big dividends.  We can find members, sort for names, addresses, make mailing labels, etc.

 At the first annual meeting in 1993, the Treasurer’s Report shows a balance of $3,401.  At the second annual meeting, the balance had increased to $5,650 including a $2,000 “startup” gift from the Crater Lake Natural History Association.  The 1997 balance had increased to $9,604 and by 2002 to $14,971.  During the Centennial year, the busiest for the Treasurer, approximately $38,000 was received and spent/donated by the Friends.  In 2005 the balance was approximately $19,200.  At the end of 2009 the Friends has a net worth of just over $41,000.  Major “routine” expenses, other than donations, are the printing of newsletters, stationary, envelopes and brochures. Other than the newsletter, these do not occur on an annual basis.  Major donations to the Friends have included the NHA ($2,000), Pendleton (various amounts) and Cycle Oregon ($2,500 on two occasions and $1,500 in 2012).  As of October 2012, the Friends net worth is $47,307.

 During the run up to the Centennial Celebration it became apparent that a Friends display was needed.  A very nice exhibit was purchased for approximately $2,000.  It is stored in a case approximately 4 feet by 3 feet and thus is easily transportable.  However, it must sit on a large table and does not do well under windy conditions.  At one time the Board authorized $2,000 for another more durable traveling display, but this was never purchased.  Another display effort was once authorized by the Board.  This would have been a more or less permanent display in the Steel Information Center.  Again, due to personnel changes, the project never was completed.

 During the Centennial celebration in 2002, the park had a showing of Crater Lake art produced by the Artists in Residence program.  This was displayed in the rim Community House.  The Friends served as docents for that program.  In 2010, the Friends authorized a donation of $1,000 to support the Crater Lake Artists in Residence Program which has been rejuvenated.  The Board has approved similar donation requests from the park in 2011 and 2012.

 We also staffed the Community House during the initial rollout of the Crater Lake license plate in 2003.  We provided general information on the park as well as the license plate program.

 In 2006 a true Friend of the park, Greg Hartell, died.  In his honor, Park Superintendent Chuck Lundy asked the Friends to take on the challenge of raising $10,000 per year to support the Greg Hartell Internship for Historic Preservation.  The concept is that this would enable other efforts to establish and fund a self-sustaining endowment which could then assume the burden of funding the intern.  Subsequently, the park itself has been able to fund the internship.  .

 As of October 2012, the Hartell Fund has accumulated over $16,000.  The endowment fund efforts with the University of Oregon have not produced the desired result.  Superintendent Craig Ackerman, has revised the strategy.  The park has offered to match donations from the Friends at a 4:1 ratio, up to $80,000.  These funds will be from the Crater Lake License Plate.  The Friends have agreed to accept this challenge and are embarking on a fund raising campaign to accumulate the desired $20,000.  Combined with the park’s donation, this would create a $100,000 endowment to be managed by the Oregon Community Foundation.  The ultimate goal is a $300,000 endowment fund.  The Friends will no longer seek to support an intern on a year-to-year basis, but may donate to the endowment fund.

 The park completely restored the old Superintendent’s house (House 19) and the old Naturalist’s house (House 20) with completion and dedication in 2006.  They now house the Science and Learning Center.  The Friends served as docents during that dedication.  We had a great time providing cake and handing out agendas, mugs and giving information to the many dignitaries and guests.

 One of the projects of the Science and Learning Center is ‘Classrooms in the Park’ which brings elementary students to the park to complement a classroom curriculum.  In 2012, members Frank Quinn and Marjorie Feldman donation ($1,000) to the Science and Learning Center in honor of the first President of the Friends, Chuck and Sally Wells, was used to provide transportation to some of these students.

 For many years the Friends have had the benefit of a website hosted by one of our members on his personal site.  During 2007 the Crater Lake Ski Patrol offered to provide space on their website.  We, including our long-term website master, liked their site and the way they had set up Friends information beside their own.  Their webmaster became a member of our board and in 2008 created a totally new site for us for which we are very grateful.  Links exist to connect the Friends, Crater Lake National Park, the Ski Patrol, and the Trust websites.  He has also set up an email account for us to use to get current information out to our members.

 Updated:  October 26, 2012


A Short History Of the Friends of Crater Lake