When we think about urban park philanthropy, we usually imagine a single, wealthy individual donating a portion of their fortune to buy or develop land for a park. That late 19th century model coincided with the creation of many of today’s urban park systems. Today, there are newer models of philanthropy that reflect the diversity of our cities’ economic and cultural diversity. For instance, one of America’s newest urban parks, Millennium Park, had more than 100 donors who each gave at least $1 million. At the other end of the philanthropy spectrum, tens of thousands of urban park programs, leagues, and facilities are funded through grassroots fundraising such as bake sales, door-to-door campaigns and in-kind donations. These philanthropy activities are essential for today’s urban parks because they help provide what government cannot, and more importantly, they demonstrate the public’s belief that parks have value.
This month’s featured parks show how two very different models of parks philanthropy share a common result: parks that successfully serve their communities.
Pack Square Park in Asheville, North Carolina was named in 1900 after George Pack, the man whose land donation created the 6.5 acre park. The park sits in the middle of Asheville, surrounded by City Hall and other key historic buildings that pay tribute to its colorful history. But the park is not steeped in the past. As the city’s traditional civic center, it is leading the way into the future by developing new elements, such as local art work, novel water features, new landscaping, and unique pavement lighting. Also new is the public-private partnership between the city, county, and Pack Square Park Conservancy, the non-profit fundraising and managing partner of the park.
Holly Farm Park in Portland, Oregon was named for its previous use: a holly farm. When the owner of the 1.7 acre farm died, the Portland Parks Foundation convinced the family to give them a chance to purchase the property in order to create the neighborhood’s only park. The foundation, along with its partners the Portland Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, The Trust for Public Land, and community activists worked to acquire the property. The land was purchased and developed through donations from hundreds of neighbors, foundation donors, and businesses contributing in-kind services to build the park. Today, the park accommodates the needs of a diverse neighborhood and fosters a sense of community.