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Bringing together the Park Partner community

National Park Friends Alliance

Arches National Park
NPS Photo / Chris Wonderly

The Friends Alliance is an informal union of philanthropic park partners and park officials that meet several times a year to share best practices and advance park partnerships. The Alliance convened its first meeting in 1994 with a small group of philanthropic park partner (or “Friends Group”) executives to share stories and learn from one another. Since its inception, the Alliance has grown exponentially and evolved into a peer-to-peer learning, collaborative network for park partners.

How We Help

The Friends Alliance is currently led by a contracted executive director who reports to a steering committee elected by the network and convenings are held bi-annually. Over 200+ participants attend these meetings, which provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, National Park Service leadership updates, and strategic discussions between philanthropic partners, park officials, and other park allies.

As part of the National Park Foundation’s efforts to elevate park partners and increase philanthropic capacity, the Foundation provides technical, financial, and administrative resources to support the strategic growth of the Friends Alliance.

Upcoming Meetings

Join the National Park Friends Alliance, National Park Foundation, and the National Park Service, for the Fall 2022 Friends Alliance Meeting that will take place at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in Gatlinburg, TN and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, November 1 – 3, 2022.

The Fall 2022 Friends Alliance Meeting Agenda is now available. Additional session information to come, and current sessions are subject to change.

Registration fee is $250 per participant to attend, with optional evening event and field trips at an additional cost. Click here to register. Registration will close Friday, October 14 at 11:59pm ET.

Travel Information

Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - iStock

The nearest major airport in Tennessee is the McGhee-Tyson Airport (TYS) located just south of Knoxville in Alcoa. This airport is approximately 45 miles west of the Gatlinburg entrance to the park.

In North Carolina, the Asheville Regional Airport is located approximately 85 miles east of Gatlinburg.

Chattanooga Airport is 146 miles southwest of Gatlinburg.

Lodging Information

There are many hotels available in Gatlinburg. Friends of the Smokies has negotiated discounted rates at several of these for your convenience. You may find a list of these discounted hotels and the discount codes here.

NPF Travel Grants

The National Park Foundation is pleased to announce that we are currently accepting travel grant applications for philanthropic park partner organizations to attend the Fall 2022 Friends Alliance Meeting. Partner organizations can request a grant for $2,000 to cover registration and travel expenses. The date to submit an application has now passed.

For questions, comments, or concerns please contact [email protected].

Steering Committee Members
  • Frank Dean, Yosemite Conservancy (Co-Chair)
  • Katie Nyberg, Mississippi Park Connection (Co-Chair)
  • Vickie Mates, Team Mates Ventures, LLC (Contracted Executive Director)
  • Bess Mitchell Averett, Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign
  • Elizabeth Fien, Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
  • Ryan McClure, Gateway Arch Park Foundation
  • Doug Mitchell, Glacier National Park Conservancy
  • Estee Rivera Murdock, Rocky Mountain Conservancy
  • Deb Yandala, Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Reggie Chapple, National Park Service Liaison
  • Will Shafroth, National Park Foundation Liaison
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Community Partnerships at NPF

Learn more about NPF's work with park partner organizations, some of the most active advocates for our national parks.

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