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Donors sought for parks’ future

December 16, 2018

Contributions to capital campaigns for Fort Wayne parks are coming in : slowly.

“Donations have been very slow,” Rick Phillips, president of the Fort Wayne Park Foundation, said last week.

The foundation, a booster organization founded in 1974, launched two fundraising efforts in August aimed at paying for maintenance and future projects.

One is for Promenade Park, set to open next year as part of the expansive riverfront development project. The other is a “Build the Future Fund” for maintenance, projects and “unexpected needs” at the city’s 87 other parks.

Together, the campaigns have netted about $63,500 since foundation representatives and city Parks and Recreation Department officials gathered Aug. 29 to announce their launch. That’s far less than what likely will be needed for future upkeep and construction, but campaign and parks department leaders aren’t worried.

The effort is part of a long-term strategy to build endowments to fund parks projects and operations, they say, and that isn’t something that can be done quickly.

“These are baby steps,” said Phillips, adding that many people probably do not know about the campaigns.

The foundation’s marketing committee has met, and a television advertisement is planned to increase awareness. The organization also plans to send fundraising letters to foundation members.

Officials also are hoping the holiday season will prompt some to make donations : particularly to the Promenade Park fund : as gifts.

“I’m encouraged by the community campaign effort to support the Parks and Recreation Department,” Mayor Tom Henry said in a statement. “We’re fortunate to have the Park Foundation as part of our community. These private funds, together with city support, will enhance and maintain what will be an amazing park.”

Crews broke ground last year on the $20 million Promenade Park, along the St. Marys River between Harrison Street and the Wells Street Bridge. It’s the first phase of the riverfront project that includes amenities such as an amphitheater and a pavilion funded in part by the Park Foundation.

The city signed a $2.4 million contract in October for planning and design work for the second and third phases of the project.

Money from the city, grants and donations are funding the riverfront project, but officials have said they need to ensure that funding is in place for future needs. An endowment would provide that.

Seventeen endowment funds are in place for other parks, and the foundation has money in its coffers earmarked for specific areas. That makes it challenging for the nonprofit to give out money for parks as needs arise.

Parks department Director Steve McDaniel said creating an endowment for what will be the city’s newest park is especially important.

“Promenade’s probably going to be a little unique, right on the river,” he said. “It’s probably going to be very heavily traveled. That takes a toll on a park.”

Donors who give 4,999 will have their name etched into steps at the park. For larger contributions, donors can have their name inscribed on a wall there.

Phillips said 44 donors have given at least $500 to get their names on the steps.

“My goal is to sell about 700 of those,” he said.

The Park Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne raised about $1.55 million for the pavilion, and the foundation has also provided money for projects and programs in several other parks since it was founded.

Last year, the foundation gave out more than $400,000 to pay for parks projects, according to its website. Donations can be made through the Park Foundation website, www.fwparkfoundation.org.

“We couldn’t do that without the Park Foundation,” McDaniel said.

mleblanc@jg.net

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