Nonprofit Spotlight: Foundation for Dane County Parks

Posted by Samantha Haas on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 at 3:16pm.

The mission of the Foundation for Dane County Parks is to strengthen the endowment fund, grow and support the volunteer program, and fund projects that ensure our Dane County parks, trails, and open spaces are cared for, not only today but for generations to come. 

COVID-19 Updates

  • (4/3/2020): Explore Stewart Lake County Park virtually through a Foundation grant-funded Watershed Explorers Series hosted by the USRWA at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 4th.
  • (3/21/2020): Tag @DaneCountyParks or use #danecountyparks to show creative ways for how you are protecting yourselves out in the parks. Here is an example.
  • (3/19/2020): Getting outside is good for mental and physical well being, but please practice the following park safety tips from Public Health Madison & Dane County: Stay 6 feet away from others as much as possible, for example by avoiding crowded playgrounds and standing away from other groups at the dog park. Assume that bathrooms, benches, playgrounds, gates, and other surfaces could have COVID-19, so bring along your own wipes and hand sanitizer. Stay updated here
  • (3/18/2020): If you want to visit Dane County Parks, plan ahead and bring items you may need. Please keep in mind that all vault toilets are temporarily closed and portable toilets do not have amenities such as water, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. 
  • (3/17/2020): Dane County Parks is operating on a reduced staff and is requesting help with spring park cleanup until further notice since sponsored activities have been canceled. If you choose to visit the parks, trails, and waterways, please bring along a pair of gloves and a small garbage bag and carry out trash and waste until further notice (and fill out this volunteer reporting form).

Nonprofit Spotlight

Parks and trails bring communities together by promoting healthy lifestyles through recreational and educational opportunities, and Dane County has over 25 parks and 100 miles of trail for the public to enjoy.

The Dane County Parks department maintains these areas using county funds, but support for projects to enhance the parks, promote education, and provide resources to help volunteers comes from the Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment Fund, managed by the Madison Community Foundation. 

The Foundation for Dane County Parks promotes the county parks system and fundraises for the permanent endowment, which has now surpassed $500,000. The newly established nonprofit hopes to grow the endowment into a multi-million dollar fund, from which the interest will be used to support these goals by providing grants to Friends groups and other local organizations, for example. 

“Our parks and trails make Dane County a truly special place to call home. One of our family favorites over the years has been Indian Lake Park,” said Realtor Dan Miller. “At Mad City Dream Homes, we're actively assisting the Foundation with its operations and fundraising efforts. So far we've taken hundreds of photos and written a dozen articles that spread the word about our local parks. We've created a donor database, launched a quarterly newsletter, and started a Facebook page, too. It's been a very rewarding experience so far, and we're looking forward to supporting the Foundation for many years to come."

The Foundation for Dane County Parks values your time, talent, and financial support. Learn how you can volunteer for parks, serve on a board or committee, and make a donation at  

Lunney’s Legacy

Bill Lunney, chair and co-founder of the Foundation, recently retired after 30 years of service as Parks Commission Chair and over 50 years of service in county government. His leadership has helped guide and build one of the best park systems in the Midwest, which has grown from 3,500 acres to over 15,000 acres. 

A fundraising event for the Foundation and endowment was held September 18 at the Lussier Family Heritage Center, adjacent to the recently renamed William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park. Mad City Dream Homes was one of the Community Leader sponsors for the event, which recognized Bill Lunney’s incredible conservation legacy and all that he and his wife Judie Pfeifer do on behalf of the Foundation for Dane County Parks. (View of video of the event here.)

Bill and Judie are “the epitome of dedicated public servants” and “have left Dane County a better place,” said Tom Thoresen, with the Foundation for Dane County Parks, and Dave Zweifel, Editor Emeritus of the Capital Times.

Other representatives from the state, county, and nonprofits Bill has been involved with honored him with their kind words, as well as a Wisconsin Legislative Citation and flag that has been flown over the State Capitol, Governor Tony Evers’ Certificate of Commendation, and a William G. Lunney Lake Farm County Park sign dedication. 

Several speakers described Bill as a mentor, role model, leader, and friend. They shared examples of how he builds relationships, listens to others, and rallies people to join a cause, turning a vision into reality. They also characterized him as an enthusiastic collaborator who is inspirational, inclusive, respectful, principled, honest, tenacious, and selfless. 

“More and more studies have concluded that exposure to the outdoors has direct health benefits,” Bill Lunney said. “Healthy parks lead to healthy people, which lead to healthy communities.”

(Photos of Indian Lake County Park by Justin Lackner and of Bill Lunney and Judie Pfeifer by Bill Pielsticker)  

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