In 2006 and 2007, a convergence of interest in starting a Friends organization at Smithgall Woods lead to movement toward the inception of our organization. Woody, of the local Woody’s Mountain Bikes, was instrumental in the formation of Unicoi State Park’s Friends group. He talked with Smithgall Woods staff about starting a Friends group. Jane Lenzen, also active with Unicoi State Park, and a frequent hiker and volunteer at Smithgall Woods, took action early on to start a group. Logistical issues delayed the formation of the group at that time. But soon thereafter, Georgia State parks administration was beginning to promote the idea of individual parks installing Friends chapters.
Steve Hadley, who was employed by Smithgall Woods at that time, had experience with Friends through his involvement with the Friends of Red Top Mountain State Park, and Friends of Georgia State Parks staff. Ranger Hadley helped to instill interest through contact with staff and volunteers, particularly Robin Peterson, who would become the organization’s first Treasurer. Robin researched what would be required to start the organization and facilitated the process through her understanding of the charter process.
Smithgall Woods staff, General Manager John Erbele and Interpretive Ranger Johnna Tuttle met with Friends of Georgia State Parks Chapter Liaison, Damon Kirkpatrick about the details of starting a chapter. Ranger Tuttle mentioned the potential formation of a Friends group to a group of people attending a program called “Smithgall Woods Master Naturalist.” Mark Huber, Robin Peterson, and Bill Kinsland from that group came to an initial meeting at the park’s Education Cabin. Also in attendance at that initial meeting were Jane Lenzen, Woody, Bernice and John Rogers, Jimmy and Arlene O’Neill, Suzette Wilson, and park staff John Erbele and Johnna Tuttle. That meeting took place in November of 2007. It was decided that the group would form a Friends organization. In December 2007, at the annual Smithgall Woods Volunteer Holiday Gathering, with initial Friends members and Damon Kirkpatrick in attendance, Friends of Smithgall Woods was officially chartered.
The first officers of Friends of Smithgall Woods were voted in at the Holiday Gathering — Mark Huber (President), Jane Lenzen (Vice-President), Robin Peterson (Treasurer), and Bernice Rogers (Secretary).