For the first time in the organization’s history, Friends of Baxter State Park is seeking a full-time executive director, making the transition from an all-volunteer organization to a nonprofit with paid employees.
It’s no coincidence that the big change coincides with Barbara Bentley terming out as FBSP president in the spring. Bentley has led the organization in that role for the past six years, during which time she also served as volunteer executive director, newsletter editor and administrator of the Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program.
“I’ve been sort of wearing a number of hats,” Bentley said. “I’m termed out at the end of April, and the question was, is this a good time for Friends to look at paid professional staff?”
Hired consultants compared the growing nonprofit, currently 750 members strong, to organizations of similar size across the country, and they recommended FBSP take that step.
“We’re pretty excited about this,” Bentley said. “I think we are in good financial shape and can afford to do this. We’re working with a couple of potential funding sources that have invited us to submit proposals because they think Friends is worth supporting.”
Established in 2000, FBSP is an independent group working to preserve, support and enhance the wilderness character of Baxter State Park in the spirit of its founder, Gov. Percival Baxter. The organization began with 150 wilderness advocates as a response to a number of potential threats to the wilderness character of the park, including a controversial decision made by the Baxter State Park Authority to allow hunting on West Branch Lands in 1998.
“That’s old history,” said Bentley. “But when Friends was formed, they were really keeping an eye on that, and I think many of the people in the founding group were focusing on advocacy and acting as the watchdog role. When I became president, we began to do more programs in the park and began to have a more collaborative relationship with the park.”
For years, the organization has sent trail work crews into the park to maintain and restore the park’s many hiking trails. And as a break from the hard work, FBSP members meet for “Walks in the Park” several times a year.
To encourage this stewardship of the wilderness among Maine teens, FBSP established the Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program, an annual nine-day backpacking trip in Baxter, in 2009.
“The park has to be careful to remain distinct from Friends because we are an independent nonprofit and we can do things the park can’t,” Bentley said. “But we still have a very good relationship with the park.”
In recent years, FBSP has published a number of educational brochures and books about the park’s history and trails, in addition to a Baxter calendar and quarterly newsletter.
“We are searching for a dedicated and visionary leader who will provide needed support as we seek to grow our financial capacity, involve our membership and fulfill our mission,” the organization states in a recent press release.
Review of applications for executive director will begin on March 1, and interviews will be scheduled for selected candidates soon after. The organization anticipates introducing the new executive director at its annual meeting on April 27.
Qualifications for the job — which has a salary of $36,000-$42,000, depending on experience and qualifications — include a bachelor’s degree or higher, a history of leadership and successful fundraising, communication skills, knowledge of Baxter State Park and a passion for the wilderness.
Though Bentley will no longer be the leader of FBSP, she has no intentions of leaving the organization or ending her interest in Baxter State Park.
“I have a lot of trails left to hike,” said Bentley. “My idea is that this year I would like to walk the 225 miles of trails in the park with [“Katahdin: A Guide to Baxter State Park and Katahdin,” a FBSP publication] and make notes for the next edition.”
For information about FBSP, a full position description and application details, visit www.friendsofbaxter.org.