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Daily Progress Feature: Shenandoah National Park Trust Launches Plate Fund Drive Launch

By David Maurer
Published: August 09, 2009

(Excerpt)

The trust recently launched a new license plate program, with the hope that it will provide a major, ongoing stream of funds for the park. The project illustrates the type of work the trust does to benefit Shenandoah.

It first got legislation approved, which allowed them to create a design for the license plate and start collecting applications. They had to get at least 350 people to submit orders for the new plate, with payment, to DMV by July 30.

That deadline was successfully met, with 50 plates to spare. That success triggered DMV’s approval process, which ensures the plate meets all rules and regulations and that the design can be replicated.

If all goes smoothly the first 400 plates will be issued within eight to 10 months. At that point the plates will become available statewide.

After 1,000 plates are sold, DMV starts kicking $15 per plate back to the trust. Other partner groups that started license plate programs years ago have proven it to be very lucrative.

“Big parks like Yosemite probably bring in $800,000 to $1 million a year in revenue from their license plate programs,” said Peter G. Rice, who has served as chairman of the trust since its inception.

“It takes a long time to build up to that, but it can provide a serious amount of funds. Now that we’re an independent, nonprofit organization, we’re really positioned to start raising some serious money.

“For me this is a labor of love. My family lives in Madison County so we’re in the park all the time. All our children first hiked on our backs, and then on their feet up White Oak Canyon, Old Rag, Bearfence Rock and all these great places.

“Now our grandchildren are doing the same thing. A lot of the quality of life people who live in this area talk about is because of that park.”

Each year the superintendent of SNP and the senior staff compile a wish list of programs and projects federal dollars aren’t going to cover. The trust, which consists of 22 board members, discusses the list and then commits to a certain amount for its fundraising efforts that year.

Funds generated by the trust have been used to restore the Old Rag Overlook. Donations have also been used to finance first-response rescue equipment that has been placed near the summit of the mountain, greatly reducing response time during emergencies.

The trust is also helping to preserve the Mount Vernon Furnace, considered one of the most significant historic features in the park. The furnace may have supplied iron ore to James Madison’s iron works.

Long neglected, the furnace needs emergency stabilization. To this end the trust has provided a grant to the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center to conduct field investigations on the furnace to best determine how to prepare a stabilization plan.

It has also provided funds for GPS Ranger devices at the park. The hand-held guiding units provide visitors with interpretive messages regarding where they are and what they’re seeing when they reach certain coordinates during hikes.

The trust also supports the Junior Rangers Program, which provides learning experiences for children that can result in the presentation of a badge and certificate by a park ranger. It also helps to fund the Youth Conservation Corps, which brings students ages 15 to 17 to the park to participate in restoration, resource management and conservation projects.

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