A Reunion: Two paths converge in the woods

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Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to announce that after working closely with the Mount Pisgah Arboretum we have some exciting news. Last fall, the Directors of the Boards of Mount Pisgah Arboretum and Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah approved the following joint resolution:

Resolved, Mount Pisgah Arboretum (Arboretum) and Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah (Friends) share common history and a desire to nurture and restore our connection to nature. Realizing this vision will depend on broader community engagement, greater resources and evolving collaborations. Therefore, the Boards of the Arboretum and the Friends (“Boards”) have resolved to work toward uniting the two entities into one organization over the next two years. The Boards encourage sustained community support for both groups as we combine our strengths, talents and commitment in service to a growing community and an extraordinary natural landscape.

For many years, people involved with the Arboretum and the Friends have had conversations about “reuniting” organizations. In 2021, all the stars aligned to formally begin the process. “Over the years, the missions of both organizations have evolved in similar directions,” says Arboretum Board Chair Karen Anderson. “From several important perspectives, our progress has converged to the point where the Arboretum and the Friends serve the public good in parallel ways and share many of the same goals. Also, the current stability of both organizations makes 2022 an ideal year to merge the two into one legal entity. And what better way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Buford Park!

Friends Board President Steve Moore feels there are two key reasons for the two organizations to merge into a single nonprofit. “This smart decision will help us expand and enhance the public's appreciation and knowledge of the greater Mount Pisgah ecosystem,” says Moore. “It also allows us to maximize the potential of our financial resources and the varied talents and experiences of our combined staff and volunteer networks.” The official name of the new organization has not been announced.

“Ultimately,” Moore added, “everyone involved is working to nurture and restore our connection to nature. We all share the goal of protecting and sustaining the flora and fauna of this precious landscape. Karen Anderson and I and the members of both boards agree that we can better serve the broader community of the Eugene-Springfield-Pleasant Hill region by serving as a unified voice for the greater Mount Pisgah area.” Over the next year or so, both of the current Boards will merge into a single Board of Directors.

I am confident that the reunion process will proceed smoothly. We anticipate the most technical steps in the reunion process, for example, gathering under a single tax ID number, will be completed in a little over a year. Other aspects of the process, such as completing a new strategic plan, branding and combining back-office systems, will likely take another year or so."

Brad van Appel went on to say that “while the Arboretum and the Friends have a shared history with similar missions, they have had independent roles. Reuniting will shift some responsibilities and clarify others. Looking ahead, the combined staff will adapt to a new organizational culture while they coordinate work plans and identify shared priorities.”

“We’re confident that reuniting the organizations will result in extra resources,” says Karen Anderson. “Such resources will help fund any new staff positions that may become necessary. For instance, additional staffing for areas in development, volunteer coordination, and park stewardship will likely be more feasible in the future.”

Anderson added, “We sincerely encourage all donors, large and small, to continue supporting both organizations in any way they can. We look forward to announcing to all our donor networks when they can begin supporting the new combined nonprofit 501(c)3.”

While the structure and enhanced staff responsibilities of the larger, reunited organization are still to be determined, there are no plans to eliminate any of the current staff positions. The organization will be led by a combined Board of Directors and co-managed by its current Executive Directors throughout the transition. All members of the reunited organization will be able to combine the benefits currently offered by both groups. There are no plans to increase the cost of membership at this time.

At 2,214 acres, Howard Buford Recreation Area (HBRA) is Lane County’s largest park. Known to many simply as Mt. Pisgah, each year HBRA welcomes about half a million visitors who enjoy twenty-five miles of trails as well as outstanding views of the southern Willamette Valley from Mt. Pisgah’s 1,518-foot summit. Situated between the Coast Fork and Middle Fork of the Willamette River, HBRA contains a wide range of native habitats including some of Oregon’s largest remaining, publicly owned, native oak savannas. Staff and volunteers from Mount Pisgah Arboretum and the Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah work with Lane County Parks to care for HBRA, provide a variety of recreational and educational opportunities, and carry out natural area restoration projects. 

Since it first opened to the public in 1973, HBRA has been home to Mount Pisgah Arboretum, a 209-acre natural area focused on engaging people with nature through interactive learning and stewardship. Each year thousands of children and adults learn about local ecology on the Arboretum’s seven miles of family-friendly trails through a wide range of native habitats, and thousands more enjoy the Arboretum’s popular annual Mushroom and Wildflower Festivals.

The Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah formed in 1989 to steward public and private lands throughout the greater Mount Pisgah area. The Friends protect and enhance native ecosystems and compatible recreation, foster community stewardship of natural areas, improve and maintain recreational trails, grow native plants for habitat restoration, and work to bring more lands in the Mount Pisgah area into conservation status.

To review a list of questions about our reunion, click here.

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