National Park Foundation
|Founded||December 18, 1967|
|Founder||Lady Bird Johnson and Laurance Rockefeller|
|U.S. national parks|
The National Park Foundation (NPF) is the official charity of the United States' National Park Service (NPS) and its 418 national park sites. The NPF was chartered by Congress in 1967 to "further the conservation of natural, scenic, historic, scientific, educational, inspirational, or recreational resources for future generations of Americans" according to their slogan. The NPF raises private funds for the benefit of, or in connection with, the activities and services of the National Park Service.
- 1 History
- 2 Funding
- 3 Related legislation
- 4 Current Goals and Projects
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Before the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916, the Department of the Interior managed a large number of protected landscapes across the country but had no unified leadership. During this time, private citizens did not have a clear way to directly support the parks, whether it be through financial contributions or land donation. This made the expansions and protection of the parks a challenge for the NPS. The 90th Congress passed a Congressional Charter of Incorporation to designate the National Park Foundation (NPF) as the official charitable partner of the National Park Service (NPS) on December 18th, 1967. The NPF was founded by First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson along with millionaire philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller. The NPF, in partnership with the NPS, continues to maintain the national parks in America through a number of grants and programs, as well as private support. Current efforts by the NPF include focusing on programs aimed at the protection and conservation of the nation’s landscapes, historical sites, and places of cultural significance. The foundation currently maintains 418 national parks through five major programs: America's Best Idea Program, the African American Experience Fund, the American Latino Heritage Fund, the Ticket To Ride Program, and the Park Steward Program.
Grants and Programs Overview
The NPF works in partnership with companies and organizations that wish to support the parks by delegating donations through one of foundation's programs and creating grants that honor the company's mission or values and benefit the parks and their patrons. Additional donations that are not assigned to one of the programs help fund media and promotions, communication with partners, and park maintenance. Recent notable partners include Disney, L.L. Bean, and Union Pacific Railways.
Best Idea Program
The America’s Best Ideas Program was launched by the National Park Foundation following the airing of the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea in 2009. The program is targeted towards underprivileged youth, with the intent to providing opportunities for them to engage with National Parks via methods such as internship opportunities at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. Other goals of the program include the creation of programs and activities within the parks that educate visitors on their history and impact. After the launch of the America’s Best Ideas Program, more than 30 programs followed that year with the goal of connecting students with parks across the country and laid the foundation for the Best Ideas program.
In 2013, the NPF gave nearly $500,000 in grants through America’s Best Idea Program alone. Grants given that year include the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Program, a summer camp for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder; a four-day camping trip in Bryce Canyon National Park for Southern Paiute students designed to engage them with Paiute history and guided by Paiute elders; and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area grant to provide homeless high school students in Fulton County, Georgia with paid internship opportunities at the Recreation Area.
The African American Experience Fund
Founded in 2000, the African American Experience Fund (AAEF) was created by the National Park Foundation in order to connect youth with black history through engagement at Historic Sites across America that partner with the NPF. Sites connected to African American leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington, and Maggie Walker, as well as cultural events like the Brown vs. Board of Education case are just some of the places highlighted by the AAEF. The NPF also aims to help preserve the stories of the individuals and the sites they care for under the AAEF and ensure that they are told truthfully and to a broader audience through public engagement with the parks.
The American Latino Heritage Fund
The American Latino Heritage Fund (ALHF) was started by the NPF to increase the number of Latino visitors at the national parks. As of 2013, only 10% of park visitors were Latino; the ALHF intends to increase attendance for the long haul beginning with educating and involving youth with sites and events that honor and celebrate Latino history. The NPF has organized the funding and supported the National Park Service's establishment of more sites and monuments that celebrate individuals like Cesar Chavez in an effort to highlight Latino history within America.
The Ticket to Ride Program
The Ticket to Ride Program was created in 2011 by the National Park Foundation in order to provide students and youth with transportation to the national parks as a result of field trips being a financial burden for many schools and youth groups. In 2013, the NPF partnered with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to provide grants through the Ticket to Ride Program. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park was able to provide 400 students in Douglas Country, Georgia with transportation to the park where they participated in programs centered around American Civil War history. In 2014, the NPF awarded Biscayne National Park a grant through the Ticket to Ride Program that allowed for 1,500 students at Title I schools transportation to the park. Biscayne was able to use the funding to create educational programs that focused on the park’s wildlife for the students to participate in. Overall, 65 parks were provided with transportation funding that same year.
The Park Steward Program
In 2009, the National Park Foundation created the Park Steward Program to unite high school teachers and their students with opportunities to engage in park stewardship and create a connection to the parks. 20 parks received funding opportunities through the Park Steward Program in 2012, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana, and Saguaro National Park in Arizona. That year, the NPF partnered with the University of Phoenix to provide Park Steward grants, highlighting their goal at intertwining National Park engagement with education.
The NPF's Open Outdoors for Kids program is operated under the Park Steward Program which began in 2017 and aims to provide park access specifically to youth. With NPF workers based in different U.S. cities, Open Outdoors for Kids is also working to increase community awareness of the value and importance in outdoor activity for kids. In the fall of 2017, the NPF provided the Northwest Youth Corps and Idaho Conservation Corps with a $290,000 grant so that members could have access to eight National Parks and fund further education on the parks' preservation and conservation. Teachers and youth leaders have the ability to book trips and organize funding through the grants made available by the NPF and the Park Steward Program. These grants are often known as "field trip grants" because they are used by schools to provide young students the opportunity to not only see, but also engage with a national park.
Partnership with Subaru
On February 13, 2013, Rep. Erik Paulsen introduced into the United States House of Representatives the National Park Service 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 627; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue gold, silver, and half-dollar clad coins in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service (NPS). The coins would all have a surcharge attached, the money from which would be given to the National Park Foundation. Paulsen argued that "even during tough economic times, it's important to find new, cost-effective ways to preserve these treasures for future generations to learn from and enjoy." President and CEO of the National Park Foundation Neil Mulholland said that "the commemorative coins would be a special ways for individuals to mark this significant milestone while simultaneously providing incredible support to these cherished places." The bill passed in the House in April 2014 and was referred to the United States Senate. Similar legislation (S. 1158) was also introduced into the United States Senate.
Effects of government shutdowns on funding and operations of U.S. National Parks
The 2019 U.S. government shutdown lasted from December 22nd, 2018 to January 25th, 2019 and impacted several areas of the government, which included the National Parks Service and the National Park Foundation. Federal workers throughout the country that were unable to work due to the shutdown reported experiencing financial setbacks due to being furloughed or working without pay, which included 16,000 employees working for the National Park Service. News outlets also reported on damage that was inflicted on the parks because of national park staff unable to work during the shutdown, as the parks remained open without staff to attend to them. Services that were suspended included trash clean-up and road maintenance. During the shutdown volunteers and local organizations worked to clean up the parks in the employees' stead and the state of Utah spent US$10,000 per day in order to allow visitor centers and custodial services to remain operational. On January 7th, 2019, National Park Foundation president Will Shafroth announced the launch of a fundraising drive as a proactive measure, so that the NPS would be able to commence restoration efforts as soon as the parks reopened. Park staff would survey the land and assess the situation, then raise money through the fundraising drive in order to direct at areas which needed prioritization.
Current Goals and Projects
In December 2016, the National Park Foundation, in conjunction with the National Park Service, announced their plans for a revitalization of Fort Wayne in Detroit, Michigan. The foundation was awarded a $265,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, which went towards hiring consultants to work with city officials on planning the redevelopment of the site. While the official plans have still yet to surface, local residents are still pushing for Fort Wayne to become a designated national park to ensure the site's preservation.
In August 2018, L.L. Bean donated $3 million to the National Park Foundation to support the foundation’s “Find Your Park/Encuenta Tu Parque” movement, which aims to raise awareness about the importance of the 400 national parks across the United States. Union Pacific Railroad also pledged $3 million dollars to support the "Find Your Park" initiative with the goal of providing grants to 132 national parks, such as Arkansas' Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, which are used to provide transportation and easier access to the site and many like it across the country.
The National Park Foundation has several ongoing projects that lend to its history of preserving park lands, natural sites, and historical sites in America. Since late 2018, the NPF has had a growing involvement with maintaining the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and establishing a connection with his family. In December 2018, the NPF completed the purchase of the home that Martin Luther King Jr. was born at in 1929. The home was initially declared a National Historic Site by Congress in 1980, and in 1982, the National Parks Service began offering tours of the home, which is located at 501 Auburn Avenue NE in Atlanta, GA. The home itself was built in 1895 and purchased by King’s maternal grandfather in 1905 for $3,500. The home was sold to the NPF for an undisclosed amount.
The NPF purchased another property once owned by Dr. King. Located at 234 Sunset Avenue in Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood, the last home that Dr. King lived at with his family was sold to the foundation in January 2019. Dr. King initially moved there in 1965, and it’s the home that his children grew up in. The property was purchased from the estate of Dr. King’s widow for $400,000 and transferred it to the National Park Service. The house will undergo three years of assessments, repairs, and restorations before the foundation plans to open it to the public.
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