■ BY SUE ERWIN
Inspire. Educate. Preserve.
Those are key efforts that the Barrier Island Parks Society board members strongly hope to achieve in 2018.
BIPS held its monthly board meeting on Wednesday morning at the Amory Memorial Chapel at Gasparilla Island State Park.
The focus of the meeting was implementation of the 2017-2020 strategic plan and included a review of BIPS’ recent accomplishments summarized in a one-page “dashboard.”
The board discussed a revenue development plan that will provide sufficient funding for BIPS to continue to support four state parks, two iconic lighthouses on Boca Grande as well as continue to implement new and exciting programs across all the parks.
Executive Director Sharon McKenzie encouraged the board to focus on revenue development.
“There are 32 nonprofits on this island, and the new tax laws will affect every nonprofit organization,” McKenzie said.
As part of the new strategic plan, the board has organized five committees, with members split into groups to discuss their individual committee goals.
Finance Committee Chair Bob Sommerville gave an updated financial report for the organization. He said about $150,000 is still needed for the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse campaign perpetual fund for the upkeep and maintenance of both island lighthouses.
“Retail sales have been weak since Hurricane Irma due to weather and related damage and repairs, but financially we’re in very sound shape,” Sommerville said.
McKenzie, who chairs the Operations Committee, was excited to announce a new partnership with nationally renowned Mote Marine Laboratory in the Wading Adventures Undercover Program offered to the public and local schools.
“We’re trying to align with the core educational standards, and this is a great opportunity to connect with Mote,” she said.
In the Wading Adventures Undercover Program, Mote is at one of the table stations with a microscope and red tide testing equipment for the participants to view.
“We’re also going to be working with them in the future on their red tide research program,” McKenzie said. “Our Beach Ambassador volunteers will be trained to use their new phone app and report red tide blooms so the information can be sent for research purposes.”
BIPS President John Rice said the annual membership drive is underway, and membership renewal reminder letters will be sent out in January to those who have not yet renewed.
“We’ve had a phenomenal initial response to the drive, but now that the holidays are over, we want to give people one more chance to become a part of our organization,” Rice said.
McKenzie added that BIPS is part of The Giving Challenge presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, which allows people to make a secure donation and help their favorite organizations receive matching dollars and grant incentives. “This is an annual campaign and nice recognition for us that could really help bring in some new funding,” she said.
Parks Committee Chair Richard Klepser mentioned that BIPS will also be working on creating two new “Friends” subcommittee groups to help support Stump Pass Beach State Park and Don Pedro State Park over the next several years.
Green Gala Committee Chair Nancy Whitney reported that the 2018 Green Gala annual fundraising event would take place on March 19.
The theme of this year’s event is “Catch a Wave,” and the evening will feature music from the 1950s and 1960s.
The event will be held at the Boca Bay Pass Club. Sponsors are still needed. Order your tickets now by calling (941) 964-0060.
As part of its mission to preserve and educate, BIPS is proud to welcome author and University of Florida Professor Jack Davis, who will present his most recent book, “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea” at the Boca Grande Community Center at 4 p.m. today, Jan. 5.
Tickets are $30 at the door or $25 online. Due to the weather forecast, the Celebrate Cayo Costa Day event scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 6 has been cancelled.
The next chance to climb the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse will be on January 13.
For more information, visit barrierislandparkssociety.org.