Recognizing the potential for strengthening volunteer park support organizations in Virginia, the Virginia Association for Parks (VAFP) was launched at a statewide park volunteer training conference held in November 1997. At their 10th anniversary in 2007, VAFP was awarded the National Association for State Parks' President Award to honor their commitment to supporting Virginia State Parks.
VAFP is now the nonprofit umbrella organization for park citizen support groups, better known as Friends Groups and individual volunteers who support Virginia's 42 state parks and 66 natural areas, as well as the 22 National Park Service units across the Commonwealth. VAFP is happy to work with regional and local parks as well.
VAFP is the only organization working towards the goal of a "seamless" park system from a user perspective. We believe that "a park is a park" regardless of the funding source.
To support Virginia's national, state, and regional parks, and give voice to those who love our parks.
Virginia has historically ranked near the bottom of state per capita spending on the state park system, as compared to other states. Despite being severely underfunded and understaffed, the total economic impact of Virginia State Parks during 2022 was an estimated $364.2 million. Economic impact is a measure of “fresh money” infused into the state’s economy that likely would have not been generated in the absence of the park system. For every $1 of general tax revenue provided to state parks, $15.21, on average, was generated in fresh money that likely would not be there if not for the operation of Virginia State Parks.
Virginia citizens, recognizing the unmet needs of parks, contribute 210,000 volunteer hours of support to state parks each year. This equates to a value of $6.3 million. Appreciating the significant contributions of volunteers, VAFP works to bolster park volunteer groups and enhance their efforts.
VAFP champions Virginia State Parks and all parks in the Commonwealth! We actively advocate park issues at the local, regional, state, and national levels, and seek funds to be directly invested in parks. We passionately pursue sustainable solutions such as dedicated funding streams for our parks.
VAFP also offer free technical assistance to those who wish to strengthen or form new Friends Groups. Additionally, we conduct semi-annual conferences to that include training sessions and networking opportunities to facilitate the exchange of ideas, build capacity, and drive collaboration.
As a membership-based organization, we seek individual members and organization partners who share our mission.
Park Citizen Support Organizations, better known as Friends Groups, are instrumental in supporting their respective parks in a variety of ways. They coordinate and participate in volunteer efforts from leading park improvement projects to staffing visitor centers and educational programming. Friends Groups also host fundraisers and help spread the word about the parks they love. Friends Groups are a wonderful resource for park staff and visitors. They are also the backbone of the Virginia Association for Parks - our critical partners in advocating for and championing Virginia's parks. Friends Groups are always looking for new volunteers who are interested in lending a helping hand!
Learn more here!