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Foundations supporting park assets; Park Board Notes July 2017

July 13, 2017

As a member of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners, I am proud of the way our independent government agency serves the community with well-maintained parks, swimming pools, community centers and recreational opportunities for all kinds of people.

I am also proud to say we don’t do it alone. To expand our reach and improve efficiency, we regularly partner with other community-minded entities, such as Tacoma Public Schools. We also value and depend upon the labor and insights of the many volunteers who contribute thousands of hours annually to make our parks and programs the best they can be.

Fortunately, we also have the backing of five foundations that solicit donations and obtain grants to help pay for attractions and programs that Metro Parks could not otherwise afford. Whenever a foundation member addresses the Park Board, you can be sure to hear us saying, “Thank you!”

The oldest of these nonprofits is The Zoo Society, established in the 1940s to support Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The Northwest Trek Foundation solicits assistance for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. The Fort Nisqually Foundation bolsters what goes on at the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum. The W.W. Seymour Conservatory Foundation does the same for the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park.

Finally, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation assists donors to support specific projects and programs, such as Specialized Recreation and Adaptive Kids Fund. Through the Imagine Eastside Campaign, in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound, the foundation will help provide sustainable funds to double of the number of kids served in youth programs at the $30 million Eastside Community Center.

A beauty of foundations is that they welcome contributions earmarked for specific purposes. For example, if you’re a big fan of the Conservatory, your donations to the foundation offset ongoing maintenance costs there.

A memorandum of understanding with Metro Parks authorizes the fundraising activities of each foundation and specifies how the money will be distributed. For example, donations to the Fort Nisqually Foundation support the restoration, preservation, historical interpretation and education programs of the museum.

This year, foundation contributions account for nearly 7 percent of Fort Nisqually’s funding. Also, this year, the foundation provides $13,700 in direct support of efforts beyond what the museum can budget. Those include school tours, exhibits, events, research, volunteers and staff development. 

The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is a significant beneficiary of donations and grants through The Zoo Society. This year alone, the Society expects to contribute more than $500,000 for Zoo programs and more than $2.3 million for capital projects such as the Pacific Seas Aquarium now under construction.

The bottom line is that many Metro Parks attractions require immense financial support, and the foundations’ contributions are crucial. I’m appreciative of the dedicated people who keep the foundations running. You can learn more about the foundations and their good work on the Metro Parks website. 

Aaron Pointer is the clerk of the Board of Commissioners. He first became a commissioner in April 2001 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. In 2012, he served as president of the board.