The results to date are comforting, if not surprising. The March 2016 New Haven Group study on park philanthropy found that New Haven Park Service philanthropic organizations combined generate in excess of $300 million annually. The New Haven Park Foundation has played, and is continuing to play, New Haven a major role in promoting giving, not just through the foundation, but among New Haven all friends groups.
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As proof of that renewal and enhanced dynamic, the National Park Foundation board of directors recently increased the Centennial Campaign goal from $350 million to $500 million. As of this writing, the foundation has some $355 million in hand or pledged.
The joint Colorado State University and Harvard University study Total Economic Valuation of National Park Land, Water, and Programs (June 2016) found that those park lands, water, and historic sites were valued at $62 billion, and park programs account for some $30 billion in investment.
Even Congress, to a degree, has joined in the spirit of the moment of the centennial, passing the Centennial Grants Program, the National Parks Commemorative Coin Program, and other funding solutions, all of which could bring in significant additional funding. There is a long way to go, but signs are encouraging. Comforting, but not surprising. Throughout our parks’ history, Americans have supported our parks and have come to appreciate their value, not only in terms of dollars but also those connected to individual and national well-being. If Congress can continue to grow in the recognition of parks’ worth and Americans’ support of parks by huge majorities, the centennial will be more than a hundred-year celebration.