Grand Teton National Park Foundation, Grand Teton National Park’s primary fundraising partner, celebrates twenty years of successful partnership with the park in 2017. Since 1997, the organization has raised more than $65 million in support of projects and programming that vastly improve visitor services, preserve park resources, and provide outreach to a wide variety of audiences.
In 1997, Jack Neckels, Grand Teton National Park’s superintendent, approached Jerry Halpin, the owner of Lost Creek Ranch, with the idea of forming a nonprofit that would raise funds to build a new park visitor center. Grand Teton National Park Foundation took shape under the leadership of Halpin as board chair and a group of founding board members that included the late Clay James and his wife Shay, Rob Wallace, Ed and Lee Riddell, Brad and Kate Mead, and Bob and Nancy Jaycox.
Leslie Mattson joined the team in 2004 as the president and led the effort to raise $25 million (which included an $8 million congressional appropriation) for the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, which opened its first phase in August 2007 and the subsequent auditorium addition in 2011. The completion of this facility not only laid the groundwork for the partnership that exists between the organization and Grand Teton today, it also created a sizeable and growing network of supporters. From annual initiatives supporting youth engagement and wildlife research, to the multiyear transformation that is underway at Jenny Lake and the recent protection of 640 acres of critical habitat on Antelope Flats, this partnership has had a tremendous and long-lasting impact on Grand Teton and the nearly five million annual visitors.
“The fledgling Foundation would not have evolved into what it is today without the entrepreneurial spirit of our park friends and the ongoing support of thousands of people who love Grand Teton. I thank all of you,” Foundation President Leslie Mattson said. “I also want to recognize Jack Neckels and the founding board members whose vision twenty years ago resulted in an organization that has an enormous impact on our wonderful park and serves as a national model for park partnerships.”
"The 20-year partnership with Grand Teton National Park Foundation has been, to say the least, amazing. We greatly appreciate their efforts at building capacity within the park historically, and into the future,” Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela said. “The Foundation is a leader and model with National Park Service units across the country, and we are extremely proud to have them as our partner, neighbor, and friend."
Highlights from the last 20 years:
• Built a state-of-the-art visitor center designed by world-renowned architect Peter Bohlin and exhibit designer Ralph Appelbaum Associates.
• Transformed Jenny Lake through safe and sustainable trails, new bridges, lake overlooks, and modern interpretive exhibits.
• Helped purchase a 640-acre inholding on Antelope Flats that has critical wildlife habitat, iconic views of the Teton Range, and was threatened with potential development.
• Advanced conservation and research for gray wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, pronghorn, bison, osprey, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, and more.
• Preserved cultural treasures including Menor’s Ferry, Maud Noble Historic District, Mormon Row Historic District, Lucas Fabian Homestead, and more.
• Employed 220 high school students during 11 seasons of the Youth Conservation Program. Participants improve trails, learn about stewardship, and gain insight into park service careers.
• Engaged more than 400 local Latino youth and family members in Pura Vida—a program that introduces this population to Grand Teton’s resources and recreation.
• Introduced 418 diverse college students to NPS careers through NPS Academy.
• Brought diverse Mountains to Main Street and Tribal Youth Corps students to the park for internships and leadership training.
About Grand Teton National Park Foundation:
Grand Teton National Park Foundation provides private financial support for special projects that enhance and protect Grand Teton National Park's treasured resources. Since 1997, the organization has raised more than $65 million for youth outreach, trail renewal, cultural initiatives, wildlife research and protection, and most recently, the purchase of a $46 million privately owned inholding that was threatened with potential development. This tract of prime wildlife habitat was the Interior Department’s highest priority project in 2016 and the largest land protection deal in the country. The Foundation continues to be a model in national park partnership, solving challenges and creating a solid future for Grand Teton.
To learn more about Grand Teton National Park Foundation, visit www.gtnpf.org or follow the organization’s updates at www.facebook/gtnpf.