Originally founded as Compadres del Ranch Grande, we’re the 501(c)(3), non-profit arm of Big Bend Ranch State Park. We work closely with the park to make sure the needs of the staff are met and visitors have the best experience possible. Though we are separate entities, we consider ourselves partners with a single goal. We even share a logo!


Friends of Big Bend Ranch State Park is run by a volunteer board of people who are passionate about Big Bend, Big Bend Ranch State Park and conservation. We meet quarterly to discuss park business. Three times a year we meet online, and one time a year we all make the journey (for some of us it’s a long journey!) to Barton Warnock Visitor Center to see each other in person. Our in-person meeting is the highlight of our year because, guess what? We’re all FRIENDS!


Joni Buck, Vice President, Acting President, Marketing Chair

Joni is our organizational specialist, big picture thinker and marketing expert. An ultra runner and occasional triathlete, Joni first got recruited to the board while volunteering at Big Bend Ultra. She and her family own land in Terlingua Ranch and reside in Houston but make the 11 hour drive to Big Bend almost monthly during the busy season.

Patrick McKee, Secretary

Patrick is our taskmaster. As a retired compliance officer he has slid easily into the secretary position. He makes sure we follow all the rules, stay on task, and keep proper records. Patrick is locally famous for being the board member who got recruited while changing a flat tire on the dirt road to Sauceda! Patrick is an avid supporter of the arts and when not enjoying time in his favorite desert, Patrick loves spending time sitting on is balcony in Houston sipping on a glass of wine.

Lauren Cecil, Fundraising Chair

Lauren is our fundraising aficinado. She’s the brains (and energy!) behind ALL our fundraising efforts. In her spare time Lauren owns Rio Bravo Ranch in Presidio and Big Bend Jeep in Terlingua. Lauren’s husband grew up on the ranch and was recently featured by Texture Presidio for his and his family’s history in the area. Read it here, here, here, and here. Lauren, Charlie and the three girls reside in San Angelo.

Chris Childs

Chris is a local property owner who has enjoyed the beauty of Big Bend for over 50 years. He’s a quiet man of few words but when he speaks up we all listen! He helps keep our accounting in check and is our overall finance guru. Chris is deeply embedded in Big Bend Ranch State Park but we can’t say much more. It’s classified. 

David Long, Historian

David is a former Barton Warnock Visitor Center site superintendent and spent 21 years working for Big Bend Ranch State Park. He provides a wealth of knowledge of the history of the park and is the Friends unofficial group historian. If you want to know something about the history of the park Dave Long is the man to ask.

Scott Whitener

Scott is also a former Barton Warnock site superintendent. He now teaches school within the national park (did you know people actually live there?) and is an avid desert runner. Scott is a great resource for anything that involves park processes. If you want to know how something works in the park, Scott is the man.

Kevin Urbanzyk

Kevin is a geologist at Sul Ross University in Alpine, he’s the resident Big Bend geographical expert and can tell you anything about the geology and topography of the region. An unofficial keeper of “the desk” in Alpine, Kevin also serves on the Big Bend Trails Alliance and is integral in the design and upkeep of the trail systems in both Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park.

Sam Cason

Sam is an archaeologist at Sul Ross University in Alpine. He’s an expert in early human history in the region and knows all the marked and unmarked paleolithic sites within the park. He servers alongside Kevin on the Big Bend Trails Alliance and is a musician playing with a local band. Occasionally, we’re treated to his tunes at our fundraising events! In this photo he’s receiving an award from BBRSP Complex Superintendent, Nate Gold, for performing a visitor rescue within the park in 2021.  Sam’s cool like that.

Todd Bureau

Todd is our resident pilot. Known for his Big Bend sightseeing adventures in his light aircraft, Todd lives in Terlingua Ranch, Hope, Alaska (not making this up) and Italy, where he pursues his other passion, the Pari Center. We’re all secretly jealous of Todd.


Kim Keith, Treasurer

Kim is the only non-voting executive officer. A retired teacher in Alpine, Kim now spend her time playing in her garden, and keeping our books. She makes sure our payments are made on time, and keeps our non-profit standing in good order. It’s through her hard work that all the money you donate is accounted for.

Martha Stafford, Administrator

Martha is our paid administrator but she’s just as much a part of our family as everyone else. She keeps all the records straight and when you make a donation or become a FRIEND, the thank you note you get comes from Martha. She knows absolutely everything and is our glue. Without her we would fall apart!


Rick Keith, President

Rick was a teacher and coach in Alpine for nearly 30 years. He dedicated his life to serving the greater Big Bend region both on our board but also working as a season park ranger and interpreter at Fort Davis National Historic Site. At the time of his passing in March 2023 he was our president. He was our cheerleader, our inspiration and he loved seeing us grow. We miss him dearly. He’s still president in our hearts.


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