Tom Johnson: A True Friend to Georgia's State Parks

Richard Gerakitis, AWER program leader for January, presented Mr. Tom Johnson, board chair of Friends of Georgia State Park and Historic Sites .Tom explained that the 63 state parks in Georgia are a part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, begun 88 years ago. But two other notes mentioned: (1) the Friends of Georgia State Park and Historic Sites is not a part of the DNR, and more than 60 parks have local Friends organizations supporting them … and (2) there are five other ‘parks’ including Jekyll Island which have a different governance structure. Roosevelt State Park and its many contiguous entities represent a unique and wonderful treasure for Georgia. It’s Georgia’s largest state park – 9000+ acres with some 40 miles of trails. Tom described a huge $5.6M fundraising project aimed at the Roosevelt Pools Renovation. Roosevelt’s polio was diagnosed in 1921 and with the availability of their medical value, he spent many days in the pools. After taking office in 1933, President Roosevelt established an office outside of Washington D.C. in Georgia, known as the Little White House which is close by Roosevelt State Park. Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites is a 501(c)(3) with a clear Mission: To Promote, Preserve and Support Over 60 State Parks and Historic Sites. State Friends has more than 6000 volunteers who last year committed 85,000 hours of service to their parks and historic sites’ care and beauty, programming of many events, and other needs supplied through their many local fundraising projects. When asked why Tom has taken a leadership role in the Friends organization, he said he’s an avid outdoor person and enjoyed visiting parks of all types (local, state, and national). He and wife Wanda started volunteering at Red Top Mountain State Park in the mid 1990s. By 2001 there were enough regular volunteers at Red Top to start a Friends chapter, so he and Wanda helped organize the Friends of Red Top Mountain State Park in 2001. In 2003 Tom was asked to join the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Board of Directors. Having moved from Roswell to Sautee (Nacoochee in White County on the GA-NC state border), he and Wanda became active at Hardman Farm Historic Site where he’s a certified docent. Soon he was asked to chair the statewide organization.Tom believes people need parks and need a sense of history. Friends of State Parks enables him to advance those ideas, and to help give people the most meaningful experience possible at our state parks.

Posted by Neil Shorthouse
January 17, 2020 2:00pm