Philanthropy and the National Parks
philanthropy has played a major role in advancing the national parks and
the National Park Service. In the years before Congress routinely appropriated
funds for park lands, and later when land acquisition needs exceeded and
continue to exceed appropriations, private donations were and are responsible
for substantial additions to the national park system. Other donations
have contributed significantly to park planning, development, management,
system benefited from private contributions even before Congress created
the National Park Service on August 25, 1916. In 1907 Mr. and Mrs. William
Kent donated what became Muir Woods National Monument, California; and
in June 1916 a group formed by George B. Dorr, Charles W. Eliot, and others
gave the land for Sieur de Monts National Monument in Maine, the forerunner
of Acadia National Park. These were the first of many parks created or
enlarged by philanthropy.
after he became the first director of the National Park Service in 1917,
Stephen T. Mather contributed much from his personal fortune to support
the parks and their administration. In 1915 he and others bought the privately
owned Tioga Road for Yosemite National Park for $15,500. The next year
he got several western railroads to join him in contributing $48,000 to
publish the National Parks Portfolio, which publicized the parks and helped
persuade Congress to create the National Park Service. Among his later
personal expenditures, Mather provided $25,000 in 1920 to build the Rangers
Club at Yosemite.
park museums resulted largely from philanthropy. A museum at Mesa Verde
National Park built with contributions from Stella Leviston of San Francisco
and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., opened in 1925, as did a museum at Yosemite
funded by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial. In 1926 the Rockefeller
Memorial underwrote the cost of the Yavapai Observation StationöMuseum
at Grand Canyon National Park, and in 1928 it contributed $118,000 for
four focal-point museums in Yellowstone National Park. Mr. and Mrs. B.
F. Loomis gave the Loomis Memorial Museum and forty acres of land to Lassen
Volcanic National Park in 1929. Congress made no significant appropriations
for park museums until it funded construction of the Sinnot Memorial Observation
StationöMuseum at Crater Lake National Park in 1930; even then the Carnegie
Foundation paid for the museum's exhibits and equipment.
of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his son Laurance S. Rockefeller to expand
the national park system are especially remarkable. They gave more than
$3 million for land and park roads at Acadia, more than $2 million to
enlarge and improve Grand Teton National Park, more than $5 million for
land to establish Great Smoky Mountains National Park, more than $2 million
for the land comprising Virgin Islands National Park, more than $1.6 million
to expand Yosemite, and lesser amounts for lands at Big Bend, Glacier,
Grand Canyon, Haleakala, Lassen Volcanic, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, and
Shenandoah national parks; Antietam, Big Hole, and Fort Donelson national
battlefields; Capulin Volcano and George Washington Birthplace national
monuments; Colonial National Historical Park; Ford's Theatre National
Historic Site; and the Blue Ridge Parkway. In 1993 Laurance and his wife,
Mary, gave their historic Vermont estate valued at $21.4 million with
a $7.5 million endowment to establish Marsh-Billings National Historical
continued to make major contributions to other National Park Service activities
as well. In 1986, for example, Laurance and his Jackson Hole Preserve,
Inc., helped launch the Horace M. AlbrightöConrad L. Wirth Employee Development
Fund, which makes grants to park service employees enabling them to further
their personal and professional growth. And in 1991 they helped finance
the service's 75th anniversary symposium at Vail, Colorado, which produced
"The Vail Agenda" for national parks in the 21st century.
Rockefellers, the Mellon family has contributed most generously to the
growth of the park system. Between 1947 and 1971, family foundations gave
nearly $7 million to fund seacoast and Great Lakes shoreline surveys leading
to the creation of several national seashores and lakeshores, to purchase
much of the land for Cape Hatteras and Cumberland Island national seashores,
and to enable federal acquisition of Hampton National Historic Site. Other
Mellon gifts contributed to the preservation of Redwood and Rocky Mountain
national parks. In 1990 the Richard King Mellon Foundation donated another
$10.5 million for lands at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Petersburg
battlefields; Pecos National Historical Park; and Shenandoah National
Park. Mellon foundations have also given generously to other National
Park Service activities, from the landscaping of Lafayette Park fronting
the White House to the Vail symposium.
persons and groups have donated or funded single parks or park additions.
There is room here for only a few examples illustrating the range of such
gifts. On behalf of Adams family descendants, the Adams Memorial Society
donated Adams National Historic Site. The Fort Frederica Association purchased
additional land for Fort Frederica National Monument. Lloyd W. Smith donated
Jockey Hollow, a major component of Morristown National Historical Park.
The Roosevelt Memorial Association donated Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Margaret Louise Van Alen, Frederick W. Vanderbilt's niece, donated Vanderbilt
Mansion National Historic Site. And Catherine Filene Shouse donated the
land and theater for Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts.
park facilities and improvements beyond those already mentioned have been
made possible by private philanthropy. Again, just a few examples must
serve. Louise du Pont Crowninshield contributed historic furnishings for
houses at George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Salem Maritime
National Historic Site. Claud E. Fuller gave a major firearms collection
for exhibit at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The
American Pioneer Trails Association funded a museum wing at Scotts Bluff
National Monument. In the largest park fund-raising venture to date, corporations
joined with individuals, foundations, and other nonprofit entities in
contributing more than $350 million to refurbish the Statue of Liberty
and restore Ellis Island's Great Hall during the 1980s. Between 1988 and
1998, Mount Rushmore National Memorial supplemented revenues from concession
contracts and commemorative coin sales with $11 million in personal and
corporate gifts to carry out major preservation work on its colossal sculptures
and renew its visitor facilities. In 1998 the Haas family donated $10
million to redevelop Crissy Field at Golden Gate National Recreation Area
as a shoreline park. Also in 1998, Walter and Leonore Annenberg gave $10
million to help develop a new Liberty Bell complex and provide other improvements
in the Independence Mall area of Independence National Historical Park.
formally recognized the importance of private philanthropy to the parks
in 1935 when it established the National Park Trust Fund Board to receive
gifts for the benefit of the National Park Service and its activities.
This body did not live up to expectations, and in 1967 Congress replaced
it with a more productive successor, the National Park Foundation. The
Secretary of the Interior is chairman of its board; the Director of the
National Park Service is secretary. Launched with a $1 million contribution
from Laurance Rockefeller, the National Park Foundation became increasingly
active during and after the 1980s as deficit reduction concerns prompted
more interest in obtaining corporate support to meet park needs. In fiscal
1997 four corporations or their affiliates each committed $1 million or
more through the foundation: American Airlines launched a "Miles for Trails"
program for trail restoration; Canon U.S.A. funded the Canon National
Parks Science Scholars Program to support graduate research in the parks;
Target Stores gave $1 million and raised $4 million more to restore the
Washington Monument; and the Toyota U.S.A. Foundation committed $1 million
for "Park Labs," an educational program for high school students. Many
more corporations, foundations, and individuals gave lesser amounts for
is more than a source of land and money for the parks. It is a means of
building and strengthening bonds between the parks and their advocates.
While all taxpayers contribute to the parks, those who make additional
voluntary contributions will have a special interest in their welfare.
The parks and the National Park Service benefit from their devotion as
well as their dollars.
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