by Samantha Haas
on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 at 9:36am.
After a rush of post-Thanksgiving shopping events, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, the focus turns to giving rather than getting today. Each year more people join the Giving Tuesday movement to help others through the gift of their time, donations, goods, or voice, according to www.givingtuesday.org.
There are countless local, national, and global organizations to support, and each have their respective merits. This year, our team has made a commitment to giving back to area parks by partnering with the Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment.
You may have seen some of our blog posts and photos of several Dane County parks, forests, and trails this fall, including the new Lower Yahara River Trail that connects Madison to McFarland, the majestic Morton Forest near Mazomanie, and Brigham County Park in Blue Mounds with expansive views of the Wisconsin River Valley. We will continue to feature scenic county sites like these, as well as promote events like the Parks & Trails Unite Festival coming up June 2, 2018.
Dane County Parks are places where people go to relax and recharge, seek solitude or connection with family and friends, and take in the natural beauty. From hiking and disc golfing to biking and cross-country skiing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy these parks year-round. Plus, some even offer areas where you can bring your dogs and horses.
"A park is not just a piece of land, it is a vibrant part of a community, it is a source of pride and allows us to connect with the natural beauty around us," Bill Lunney, Chair of the Friends of Dane County Parks and of the Dane County Parks Commission, writes on his website.
The Dane County Parks Department maintains these parks using county funds, but support for projects to enhance the parks and offer education comes from the nonprofit endowment managed through the Madison Community Foundation. The endowment fund, which has surpassed $400,000 in less than four years, benefits the parks system by using the interest from the endowment to sponsor special events, promote education within the parks, and provide resources to help volunteers. Last year over 3,500 volunteers put in over 66,000 hours of work, which equates to over a million dollars of labor.
"They (volunteers) are the backbone of our park system," Lunney said at the festival preview event in September. "When our endowment reaches a half million, which we hope will be soon, they (the Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment) will start an active program of grants while continuing to grow the endowment to the next milestone."
How the Endowment will be used
Interpretation: Creating awareness and exploration of the cultural heritage, archeology, geography, climate, and natural resources of Dane County.
Education: Engaging children, adults, communities, and organizations in outdoor learning and creativity.
Volunteerism: Supporting and encouraging individuals and groups to contribute their time, effort, and resources for the benefit of their park system.