About Us

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is fortunate to have more than 700 people volunteer to work in the park each year. All volunteer activity is appreciated, but the Friends does work that can’t be done by individuals. It obtains and administers grants and memorial funds which individuals, companies and other organizations wish to provide for the benefit of the park. The tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status of the Friends makes it possible for individuals to make gifts of cash or property (physical items or real estate) and allows the donors to claim legitimate tax deductions.

Mission – Protecting resources and heightening visitor experiences in partnership with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Historical Background

On April 7, 1994 a core group of people interested in supporting the National Park Service in managing and developing the natural and historic resources of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore met to discuss the need for a non-profit organization. The following people attended: Dr. G. Franklin Zaring, John Abbett, Paul Benington, and William Merry. On May 4, 1994 at a public meeting attended by 20 people, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes was formed.

Typical Activities

In the time since inception, the Friends have worked closely with the National Park Service to identify projects that will enhance the public enjoyment of the park. You can see a description of some of the projects that have been completed, the ones that are currently active, and some future projects by visiting the Projects page.

Volunteers from the Friends are involved in the following activities on a routine basis:

  • manage Adopt-A-Beach, Adopt-A-River, Adopt-A-Trail
  • manage the maintenance and Trail Ambassador program for the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
  • Support the park in developing new trails: Kettles Trail in the Bow Lakes Region, Bay to Bay Trail, Mountain Bike trail in Echo Valley Region
  • manage field mowing to preserve historic agricultural landscapes
  • publish 13 visitor guide booklets about the science and history of the area
  • provide housing stipend for Park interns
  • provide funding for NPS project grant requests

We’ve created a short YouTube video playlist that highlights some of the things Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes does in support of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


Organization – All Volunteer

Most of our staff positions are currently filled, but we regularly recruit for assistants and trainees for each position. We are a high-functioning all-volunteer organization. Staff turnover and vacation absences are expected, so we strive to have more than one person capable of doing each role for backup and succession planning.
For more information about a specific role, please review our list of Volunteer Job Descriptions.

View our Organization Chart here.

Board Member bios are listed on a separate page.

A financial statement for the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes is available upon request.


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