Evolution of Philanthropy in the National Park System|
There was an informal understanding with Congress in the mid-80's that for philanthropy to succeed, it could not be viewed as a replacement for appropriations. Continuing concerns include: 1) At what point do donors feel that government is shirking its responsibility and become motivated not to contribute. 2) What should government pay for and what should be left to charitable interventions?
Philanthropy is primarily driven by response to need. There continues to be a substantial backlog of construction, repair and replacement, and restoration and visitor service program shortfalls in addition to needs and opportunities for new park enhancement projects and programs. Throughout NPS history there have been funding backlogs.
Many park construction needs, such as roads, sewers, employee housing, maintenance facilities, have limited appeal to donors and can only by funded through appropriations.
Another reality is that annual Congressional appropriations cannot cover all park needs.
Visitor facilities and programs, such as visitor centers, education programs, and trails, and initiatives to protect park resources, such as site restoration projects and species protection, definitely have donor appeal.
It is important to ensure that money raised for parks through philanthropy will not be used as a rationale to reduce appropriations and that the combined support of appropriations and philanthropy continue to be available to meet park needs.