Julie Parish. Photo courtesy of Golden Gate National Parks.
What She Gave
A landscape architect, writer, mom, and
outdoorswoman, Julie Parish set about expanding
a small circle of donors devoted to Golden Gate
National Recreational Area. As a trustee for the
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, she
aspired to build a community of annual park
donors of $1,000 and more.
The result was the William Kent Society, named
for the local philanthropist who in 1907,
purchased 250 acres of old growth redwoods and
donated them to the federal government. Kent's
donation of what is now Muir Woods was the first
ever gift to the national parks.
To draw potential donors into the fold, Julie and
her colleagues introduce them to little-known
places in the parks. In spring and fall, the William
Kent Society stages ranger-led hikes and picnics.
Donors are invited to a prime viewing spot for the
Fourth of July fireworks, with blankets and hot
drinks provided to stave off the chill of the summer fog.
The Kent Society is among the forces behind a program
to build a world-class trail system for the park. An
annual dinner benefiting Trails Forever is staged in a
different park locale every year and is one of the city's
hottest tickets. Last year the event drew more than 300
people and raised half a million dollars, mostly through
a spirited auction for items like a romantic dinner at
Point Bonita Lighthouse, a clambake at Baker Beach, a
party on Alcatraz, and a candlelit dinner at Muir
Woods. In addition to trails, the funds help pay for
transportation to bring schoolchildren to the park, maps,
signage, and family environmental programs -all
intended to inspire people to discover nature on their
own terms, says Parish.
Why She Gave
"Few people get to live next to a national park," Parish
says. "Giving back comes with the privilege."
"The William Kent Society was the kind of philanthropic vision and action that we felt
could inspire others," she says.
"Our success comes from creating a shared sense of ownership of the park. Coming
together here throughout the year nurtures a sense of pride in this place, and people step
up and give generously."