National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
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Laurance Rockefeller Preserve Center

Point of Contact: Jackie Skaggs, spokesperson for Grand Teton National Park

The Partners: Grand Teton National Park and the Rockefeller Family

The Project
With a generous donation from Laurance S. Rockefeller, visitors to Grand Teton National Park have access to over 1,100 acres of pristine land located on the shores of Phelps Lake. Now known as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, the former JY Ranch property originally had been purchased by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1932, and served as the Rockefeller family's summer retreat for nearly 70 years. To create the preserve, 30 log buildings and two roads were removed from the property, the land was returned to its natural state, a trail system was created and a visitor center built. Mirroring the vision of its donor, the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve opened to the public in June of 2008.

Park officials, members of the Rockefeller family and 170 guests privately commemorated the gift and the opening of the state-of-the-art, 7,500 square-foot visitor center on June 21, 2008. The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center is the first platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building to be built in the National Park System. Its green technology includes composting toilets and solar power.

The preserve center serves as a starting point for the eight-mile network of trails that leads visitors on self-directed hikes to scenic and ecologically significant areas of the preserve, including Lake Creek, Phelps Lake and the adjacent ridges. A 2.5-mile primary loop provides views of Phelps Lake and the Teton Range from a series of rest areas along the trail. The network also includes a handicapped accessible trail a third of a mile long near Lake Creek.

Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky spoke of her father during the dedication of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. "Dad used a treadmill every day for 30 minutes until he was 91 and next to the treadmill was a framed photograph of nature with the quotation, ‘In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.’ This quotation reflects Dad's understanding that wildness renews people's spirit and thus through the mind, body and spirit connection also facilitates emotional and physical healing. Dad got enormous satisfaction thinking about all those visitors to the LSR Preserve in the years ahead that would have this experience."

The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center reflects Mr. Rockefeller's continuing commitment to providing public access to natural scenic areas. He believed that areas of great natural beauty such as the Grand Tetons have the power to restore and sustain the human spirit. He also envisioned the preserve as a place where people would learn about the importance of nature in their lives and their role as stewards of the land.

"I have always shared my father's vision, not only to give generously but also that people should live in harmony with nature," Rockefeller said through a spokesman before the presentation ceremony of the ranch in 2001. "For 75 years, the majestic property has been preserved for our family, and I am gratified that henceforth it will be preserved for the American people."

Laurance S. Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was known as "Mr. Conservation" for his efforts to bring conservation issues to the national agenda as advisor to five American presidents and his role as chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission.

How They Did It
All of the site restoration and new facilities were funded by the estate of Laurance S. Rockefeller. Legal conveyance of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve to the federal government occurred on November 5, 2007.

It's estimated that Mr. Rockefeller spent in excess of $20 million to restore the land, create the trail system, construct the visitor center and make other improvements. Park officials estimate that the land is worth $160 million, making it as one of the most valuable gifts in the history of the park system.

Mr. Rockefeller specified that more than 30 JY Ranch buildings be removed and the area be rehabilitated to its natural condition. Half of the buildings were taken to a new family property south of the park, and half were donated to the National Park Service and have been rehabilitated for use as employee housing. Mr. Rockefeller also made arrangements for a dedicated fund to assist with ongoing maintenance of the new facility. In accepting this gift, the National Park Service agreed to operate the grounds and facility to standards established by Mr. Rockefeller in the conveyance agreement.

"All this was driven and directed by Laurance S. Rockefeller," said Jackie Skaggs, spokesperson for Grand Teton National Park. "He wanted the land to speak for itself, to help people see how we relate to nature by itself, and come away with a greater appreciation for conservation stewardship."

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Laurance S. and Mary Rockefeller
Laurance S. and Mary Rockefeller, JY Ranch, Grand Tetons. Photo courtesy of Rockefeller family estate.
Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center
Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center. Photo courtesy of Grand Teton National Park.
Phelps Lake, Grand Tetons
Phelps Lake, Grand Tetons. Photo courtesy Grand Teton National Park.
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