LAS VEGAS (AP) — A conservation nonprofit that previously raised $80 million is using more funds to make improvements at some of the most popular national parks in Nevada a reality.
The San Francisco-based Fund for People in Parks has raised more than $800,000 for 30 projects at 11 different parks including Great Basin National Park and Death Valley National Park on the Nevada-California border, the Review-Journal reported .
Most of the donations were in the $25,000 to $50,000 range and were used to pay for things like interpretive signs, trail improvements, exhibits and orientation films.
Fund for People in Parks Executive Director Bob Hansen said he decided to spend his “semi-retirement” helping the parks. The nonprofit’s focus is to give “visitors something more than they bargained for,” he said.
The group’s latest contribution is also its largest to date: $284,000 to help renovate Dantes View, a popular overlook at Death Valley National Park. The gift fully funded the addition of a $51,000 bronze relief map of Death Valley.
Hansen, who joined park officials for a ribbon-cutting last week at the site 125 miles (201.2 kilometers) west of Las Vegas, said National Park Service sites operate on limited budgets, and most of their funding gets eaten up by the “have-to-do stuff” like resource protection, public safety and maintenance. Interpretation — the office that helps visitors understand the history and context of what they are seeing — is often first on the chopping block when cuts are made.
At Death Valley, for example, the Park Service had 20 new educational signs sitting in storage because there wasn’t enough money to put them up, so the fund stepped in to pay for the installation.
“The park is a monster,” Hansen said of Death Valley National Park. “It’s bigger than the state of Connecticut. If you have to send a ranger out to Eureka Dunes to put up a sign, you’re talking about a long, 10-hour day.”
Then there is Dantes View, where park spokeswoman Abby Wines said the sidewalks were literally crumbling down the mountain.
Without private donations, Wines said, the work would not have gotten done until 2023 at the earliest.
The fund earlier this year gave a $3,500 grant to the Great Basin National Park Foundation, which used it to buy a new telescope for the park’s night-sky programs.
Hansen and company are now paying for the development of another attraction at Great Basin National Park in White Pine County, 300 miles (482.8 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas: A permanent display at the visitor center for a 133-year-old Winchester rifle that was found leaning against a tree in the park in 2014.
Nichole Andler, acting superintendent for the park, said a $12,000 donation from the Fund for People in Parks paved the way for the “mystery Winchester” exhibit. The display should make its debut sometime this fall.