Friends Groups Help Raise Big Money for Parks

Friends groups are often helping to raise the funds necessary for big projects at state parks and historic sites. From restoration efforts to brand new buildings, Friends groups are more and more becoming essential partners in major capital fundraising campaigns.

Tower of Victory

Tower of Victory Restoration Campaign

Two large grants put the Palisades Parks Conservancy one step closer to restoring a Revolutionary War monument and a key feature of the nation’s first publicly owned historic site.

The Conservancy launched a $1.5 million fundraising campaign in 2012 to restore the Tower of Victory to its original appearance and function, including a tile roof destroyed by a hurricane that enclosed a visitor’s platform overlooking the Hudson River. Without its protective roof, the Tower has sustained water damage that must also be repaired to ensure that this significant artifact of New York history remains standing for years to come.

To date, the campaign has been supported by 150 individuals, corporate sponsors, foundations, and public entities. The Conservancy was recently awarded a $100,000 from the Thompson Family Foundation in support of the Tower’s restoration. The Conservancy also received a $50,000 grant from American Express last fall.

The Tower of Victory is located in Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site and National Historic Landmark, the nation’s first publicly owned historic property. It was constructed beginning in 1883 at the behest of Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln’s oldest son and then Secretary of War. The Tower was built as a tribute to General George Washington and to the disbanding of the Continental Army after the successful completion of the American Revolution. It is the only monument dedicated to the peaceful conclusion of the Revolution in the nation.

Learn more about the Tower of Victory Restoration Campaign.

LetchworthNatureCenterLetchworth Nature Center

A $4.8 million campaign was recently launched to bring a state-of-the-art nature center to Letchworth State Park. The fundraising efforts are being spearheaded by the Letchworth Nature Center Campaign Committee, and includes representatives of the Genesee Regional Parks Commission, the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks, the Natural Heritage Trust, and the Friends of Letchworth State Park.

Letchworth State Park is known as ‘the Grand Canyon of the East,’ and for good reason – the Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs. It is a significant park, both geologically and economically, serving as an important tourism draw for the region. Once complete, the vision for the Letchworth Nature Center is for it to be a year-round educational, recreational and tourism destination, further boosting the park’s significance to the region.

The funding will come from a variety of sources, including state grants and private funding. The goal is to raise at least $1.6 million of the overall cost in private donations to go towards enhancements and a $1 million endowment to ensure the ongoing operation of the facility.

The campaign is off to a great start. Genesee Regional Commission Chair and Chair of the Committee Peter Humphrey and his wife Sally Humphrey made a lead donation of $300,000. Cash and pledges to date exceed $900,000, including a gift from the Friends of Letchworth. The private funding is being matched with $3.2 million from Governor Cuomo’s economic development initiatives.

Plans for the 5,000-square-foot Nature Center include meeting and classroom space, a research lab, and exhibits – all of which will enhance the visitor’s understanding of the unique history, geology, and environment found in the park. The building will also be a sustainable facility. A spring 2015 groundbreaking is expected and the Nature Center is planned to open in 2016.

Learn more about the Letchworth Nature Center.

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