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Julie Parish

Julie Parish
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."

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William Kent and Stephen Mather standing in front of tree
William Kent and Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service in 1907.
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