The Transylvania Times -

By Park Baker
Staff Writer 

DuPont Friends Hire A Director - Brevard NC

 

March 30, 2017

Sara Landry

The Friends of DuPont Forest (FODF) nonprofit volunteer group has just hired its first salaried employee.

Sara Landry stepped into the position Jan. 14 after a background in marketing and administration. Her most recent role was at Lenoir Rhyne University in Asheville, where she said she wore many hats.

Visitation to DuPont State Recreational Forest is expected to be around a million people this year, so for the FODF the time for an office to set their budget, direct enquiries and assist the N.C. Forest Service is now.

"We've just set our goals for the year," said Landry. "We're going through a transition, and it's a really good time to have staff come on board. The state invested $3 million in the forest last year, with nine new positions to be filled. We're all preparing for the growth of DuPont."

Some of those goals focus on building FODF membership, which is part of Landry's job, and the group has set its vision and mission, focusing on what kinds of events they would like to see in the forest throughout the year.

"The events committee has come back with a full list of events," she said. "Tour De Falls this year is May 13 and 14. It is our biggest fundraiser of the year. It's a bus tour from Bridal Veil to Triple and High Falls and it is open to the public. We are also hosting wildflower hikes and geology hikes, a trout stocking event, a solstice hike and a canoe day. These are all for members. Each event will typically have about 15-20 people."

Landry's position is funded strictly by the FODF, but she said she is looking forward to working closely with the N.C. Forest Service.

"They are bringing an education ranger on board, which will become more and more important," she said. "We're having a push to have more educational opportunities, but we will remain focused on maintaining the trails and litter pick-up days. We want to get a variety of events scheduled."

Landry said that in her new position, she is looking to build community with members and that coming from a volunteer board to a professional staff it will be easier to do that. She hopes to accomplish this through learning opportunities to connecting with the membership.

"When I look at the forest, I see jobs, mental health, getting kids out there to learn about science, and getting them off the couch and off the video games," she said. "There's so much recreation here. I grew up Hiking in these mountains. It's so close, and it makes it so easy for the parents. That's really important to me."

Landry spends a good bit of time Hiking and exploring the forest with her own son.

"Building membership is another important one for me," she said. "The FODF has done such a great job in the actual creation of the forest, but since its opened and we're anticipating a million visitors, I want to build the membership and get people involved. We've had a lot of newcomers in the area and Henderson County has changed dramatically. There are more bikers, more equestrians and fishermen. This is a way to give back. I think Friends is a great way to do that."

While Landry is the only salaried member, it is a part-time position right now. She said there is enough opportunity in the community for it to become a full-time gig.

"That's my goal, to continue building momentum and create more jobs," she said. "When I look at the Forest Service, do high-schoolers know about being a forest ranger? I see trail work opportunities, outfitters, anything outdoors. We don't all see the forest as an economic force in our communities."

She hopes that both Transylvania and Henderson counties are smart in their growth, but it's very exciting for her to see that change. Much of her focus is on creating systems that will make the FODF function more efficiently - looking at membership and making changes that will make an impact on the forest big picture.

"Of course, you always do look and ask is it too many people? But those are good conversations," she said. "Part of the reason I wanted this position is to be influential in our natural resources. It's the right time to have more leadership in conservation. Not only is it the right thing to do to save these beautiful places for our children, but the economic input is tremendous, and on a personal level being closer to my family and involved in where I live has been a good thing."

Landry said the Forest Service is telling her that the "donut hole," the piece of property in the center of the forest that was gifted to the state last year, is about two years away from being open to the public.

Forest supervisor Jason Guidry said bringing in a professional for fundraising and who will add more organization to the Friend's group seems natural to keep up with the rapid growth in popularity of DuPont.

"I hope it benefits us," he said. "It's the right move for the Friends in my opinion. The forest is growing and with it the challenges. Along with the Forest Service adding new positions, it seemed natural to keep pace with things," said Guidry.

Guidry is busy with bathroom designs for the Hooker Falls parking lot, and finding the right fit for each of the nine new positions that will fill his ranks.

"We have a couple of positions focused on education and information - they're kind of one in the same," he said. "We're looking for some programs for our younger visitors who may not know much about the forest setting, like wild and scenic areas, and some of the dangers in them. The Friends have wanted to help with some projects along those lines. They have always been very helpful from the funding end of things, but we will have some new focus on education."

The new positions include maintenance and facilities, three law enforcement positions, a recreation specialist, one educational position and an administrative assistant.

Guidry said later this season he is going to have a waterfall safety program to hopefully educate visitors.

Anyone interested in learning more about the FODF, or becoming a member, can visit http://www.dupont forest.com.

 
 

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