In 1997 the Grand Teton National Park Foundation was created as the primary fundraising partner for Grand Teton National Park. This year the two organizations are celebrating the accomplishments achieved over the course of the last 20 years.
Since the beginning of the partnership, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation has raised more than $65 million for Grand Teton National Park. The projects and initiatives it has funded have aimed to improve visitor services, preserve park resources and provide outreach to a variety of people that the park attracts.
The first major fundraising project for the foundation was the construction of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. The center opened its first phase in 2007 and its auditorium addition in 2011. Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson said that the completion of this facility helped expand the park’s network of supporters.
“The visitor center really put us on the map in terms of having capacity to help the park,” Mattson said.
The park, which has nearly five million annual visitors, has greatly benefited from the achievements under the partnership — it has been instrumental in turning people’s passion for the park into more directly meaningful contributions.
“Before there was a foundation I don’t think people knew they had the ability to help the park through philanthropy,” Mattson said. “So many people love Grand Teton, so the ability to utilize people’s charitable gifts to help the park has made a huge difference.”
After the construction of the visitor center, the next big fundraising goal was $14 million for the Jenny Lake Renewal project. Fundraising efforts were successful and the project, which includes repair of trails, the addition of overlooks and interpretive exhibits, is underway.
Other highlights of the partnership include the addition of trails and bridges, advanced conservation and research for native wildlife, the preservation of historic and cultural landmarks and the purchase of a 640-acre inholding on Antelope Flats.
Antelope Flats is one of the most important wildlife habitats in the region and was the largest land protection deal in the country. The Grand Teton National Park Foundation raised $23 million in private funds for the purchase, which was matched by $23 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The foundation’s next priorities lie in the cultural preservation of the Mormon Row area and improving public access to the Snake River, Mattson said, but efforts will not end there.
“There’s a never-ending supply of things to do with the Grand Tetons,” she said.
Since the two partnered, the park has also employed hundreds of high school students as part of its Youth Conservation Program, engaged local Latino youth and family members through its Pura Vida program, and introduced 418 college students to National Park Service careers.
“We are thankful to everyone who supports what we do,” Mattson said. “We couldn’t do what we do without private philanthropy.”