The Times West Virginian

December 13, 2012

Valley Falls State Park Foundation nonprofit status would be big boost

Times West Virginian

— We all have memories of spending a fun day outdoors, whether we were sharing a picnic with the rest of our family, on the banks of a river with a fishing pole in hand, or simply using it as a chance to relax in the peaceful surroundings.

Fortunately for residents of Marion County, a nearby park offers those opportunities and more.

Valley Falls State Park is a popular destina­tion for individuals, groups and families who are looking to relax, picnic, fish, enjoy the scenery or use one of the park’s many trails.

In fact, the park serves about 187,000 people each year. In addition to typical recreational activities, they use the park as a site for weddings, reunions and photo shoots.

But funding is essential for the park to meet needs and provide the amenities the public enjoys so much.

That’s why the Valley Falls State Park Foundation is seeking a non­profit organization status.

The group wants to address the needs for such funding and has already received recognition from the state. But before the foundation can accept any contributions, it must also be recog­nized by the IRS. Obtaining recognition from the IRS as a nonprofit organi­zation will allow the foundation to receive tax-exempt donations to help fund several projects that are necessary to the gener­al upkeep of the park.

As Ronald Fawcett, super­intendent of the park, pointed out, the state can’t fund everything.

“We need equipment, landscaping materials and other things, and we just don’t have the funding for that kind of stuff,” he said.

In addition to purchasing new equipment, Fawcett said funding could be used for tree removal and excavation work on the trails, and to buy new picnic tables and more seating, replace grills, and repair bridges and the playground area.

Plus, not having sufficient manpower, lacking funding and having outdated equipment pose a liability issue for the park.

“It’s a safety hazard,” Fawcett said. “It becomes a liability against us. Things like that could be paid for out of the fund that the foundation has if we had the money to work with. Not only that, we could get it done so much faster.”

Currently, the process for purchasing new equipment requires several steps and a significant amount of time. If the foundation is recognized as a nonprofit organization by the IRS, that process will become much simpler. When a member of the foundation’s board sees a need within the park, a meeting will be held to vote on the appropriation of money to that specific project and then they can immediately proceed.

The ability to do that will result in the park being better able to serve the community in a timely manner, and it will be an up-to-date and safe park for those who use it.

Receiving the nonprofit status from the IRS is an essential step, and the foundation has already sent in all the necessary paperwork. It expects to hear back from the IRS this month in regards to whether or not it has received the nonprofit status. Until that becomes official, the foundation cannot accept any donations.

But if — and hopefully when — the group’s request is approved, many opportunities will open up, including the park’s ability to approach companies to request contributions.

There are already several great opportunities at Valley Falls State Park. But gaining nonprofit status will open the park up to even more.