The FHHSP Story
The FHHSP Story
In 2003, a group of dedicated volunteers and park enthusiasts begun to meet with the aspiration of organizing and raising funds for Hocking Hills State Park. Hocking Hills is by far the most visited and well-known of Ohio’s state parks, annually attracting over four million visitors per year – more visitors per year than some surprisingly well-known national parks throughout the United States. Within a year, the group had formed a board of directors, applied for and received a 501(c)3 charitable fundraising organization designation from the Internal Revenue Service. The Friends of The Hocking Hills State Park – which we sometimes refer to FHHSP because it is such a long name – was born!
The mission of FHHSP is as follows: “To foster a partnership between outdoor enthusiasts and Hocking Hills State Park that ensues a better place for nature education, while setting a high conservation standard and raising a strong sense of responsibility for future generations”. The organization seeks to support that lofty mission by raising funds for and providing financial and material assistance to the park. Unlike many states, Ohio’s state parks are still free to all visitors – no parking or entry fees – which means that Ohio state parks are supported entirely by taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, Ohio’s state parks receive less than one penny of every state tax dollar generated in Ohio. While the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the management staffs of each individual state park do a fabulous job of stretching those dollars as far as they possibly can, in a park like Hocking Hills, the wear and tear of four million visitors a year can take a toll, and leave a hole in the budget. That’s where we come in.
Since 2003, we have provided over $1.7 million in material and financial assistance to Hocking Hills State Park. For the past 17 years, we have provided funding for naturalist program supplies and live animal care supplies. We’ve funded a raptor habitat and an archery range. We’ve purchased utility vehicles for the park’s campground volunteers. We’ve even moved a road!
In 2008, FHHSP spearheaded an effort to move State Route 664 in the area of Old Man’s Cave, in order to protect the Old Man’s Cave gorge, and to ensure the safety of visitors to that area of the park who had to cross State Route 664 from the parking area on the other side of the road. It took four years and a direct contribution of $125,000 for a feasibility study from two of our Board members, but we finally got the job done in 2012. Today, visitors to Old Man’s Cave enjoy an expanded parking area, and they don’t have to cross State Route 664 to access it. Equally important, removing the ground vibration caused by the proximity of State Route 664 to the gorge has helped to preserve it and slow its erosion.
While it’s hard to top moving a State Route, we may have pulled that off in 2018, when the John Glenn Astronomy Park was opened within Hocking Hills State Park. FHHSP raised over $1.0 million for this project, and then spearheaded the design and construction of the facility, which is a premier astronomy education center, strategically located in the darkest skies in Ohio. Even more amazing, we currently run this facility on a budget of less than $25,000 a year. However, the more donations that we attract, the more we can do in terms of providing a quality astronomical educational experience to park visitors.
How can you help? Please donate today and help us to continue our mission of conserving, preserving and protecting Hocking Hills State Park, the gem of the Ohio state park system! We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization, which means your donations can be tax-deductible.