By Brad Hicks

The Friends of Rocky Fork State Park on Saturday, Dec. 10, met for the first time since achieving its nonprofit status and, during the annual membership gathering, selected its board members and elected officers for 2017.

Current Unicoi County Commission Chairwoman Marie Rice was nominated to serve as the group’s president, retired attorney Wayne Harding was nominated to serve as the organization’s vice president, and Flag Pond resident Ricky Waldrop was nominated to serve as treasurer.

Harding, who Rice referred to as the group’s “legal guru” completed the filings necessary for Friends of Rocky Fork State Park to receive its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, was named the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park Volunteer of the Year during Saturday’s meeting.

Rice said the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park board will be made up of around a dozen members.

The nominations of the officers and board members are set to be confirmed when the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park meets again on Jan. 10.

The majority of state and national parks throughout the state of Tennessee have similar “friends” groups that act as independent nonprofits. The Friends of Rocky Fork State Park has completed filings to be registered as a friends group affiliated with Tennessee State Parks.

In conjunction with the fall announcement that it had received its 501(c)(3) status, the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park also announced the kickoff of its membership drive. That drive began in early October. Membership fees for those wishing to join the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park are $10 for students, $25 for individuals and $40 for families.

There are also levels for those providing greater contributions. Corporate sponsors that contribute $100 to $499 will be on the Saw-Whet Owl level, those contributing $500 to $999 will be at the Peregrine Falcon level, and those contributing $1,000 and up will be at the Bald Eagle level.

Because the group has achieved 501(c)(3) status, financial contributions to the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park are tax free.

For more information on the upcoming meeting or the Friends of Rocky Fork State Park, contact the organization via email at rockyforkfriends@gmail.com, or visit the organization’s Facebook page or website at www.rockyforkfriends.org.