Parks For All

A foundation provides philanthropic support to regional parks.

Carol Schreiber is an outdoor enthusiast and regional park advocate whose passion for parks and nature has never waned. A Plymouth resident of 24 years, she has been on the board of the Three Rivers Park District Foundation for three decades, and she has been the acting foundation president for the last two years. Her passion for the parks aligns with the foundation’s mission: to connect everyone to the wonders of the parks.

“It’s still a well-kept secret,” Schreiber says of Three Rivers Park District. “I know French Regional Park because I live within walking distance of it. Before the foundation, I thought that was it. But it is so much more. It is world class.” With 11 million visitors each year, Three Rivers Park District parks serve the Twin Cities metro area and stretch out to total 27,000 acres.

The foundation has provided philanthropic support to the park district since the late 1980s. Since its inception in 1986, the foundation has raised half a million dollars for the district to support the educational programs, natural resource initiatives and other ways of making it possible for more people to enjoy the parks.

The foundation’s philanthropic support translates across many avenues. In 2015, it helped plant 31,000 native trees and shrubs. It funded the initiative to put transmitters on resident snakes and turtles, tracking them in order to learn how to better protect them.

And it’s not just the wildlife and greenery that benefit. Last year, the foundation purchased a $67,000 van for the park district to use as an outreach tool, in order to include populations that have historically been underrepresented in regional parks. This year, the foundation wrote a $25,000 check for scholarships for school-age children participating in the district’s Explorer Camps. Many schools also receive scholarships and end up visiting French Regional Park for field trips to learn a new activity like slacklining, stand-up paddleboarding or log rolling.

Interfaith Outreach has partnered with the foundation for the last ten years. One of Interfaith’s programs, the Leadership & Activities Club, serves Plymouth-area teens living in lower-income neighborhoods who want to get involved with their communities through volunteering and partnering with Three Rivers for outdoor recreation activities. With the foundation’s financial aid, these students can take part in activities at French Regional Park, including cross country skiing, shelter building, geocaching, kayaking, rock climbing and much more.

“A big thing we do with LA Club is help the teens feel more connected to their broader community,” says Martha Grave, CONECT Program Coordinator for Interfaith Outreach. Grave estimates scholarships will enable at least 20 students in her program this year to be able to access park activities. “Often with those really exciting outdoor recreation activities, lower- income students are excluded because of financial restrictions. This gives the kids something new to try that makes them feel more connected with the community and to their peers.”

The foundation is always looking for ways to help support the parks. In order to do this, they depend on community support, especially through end-of-year giving. “We have been really lucky with Give to the Max,” Schreiber says. Last year, the foundation raised more than $25,000. This year the foundation has set a goal of raising $50,000.

“I think year-end giving helps people connect with the things that are important to them,” says Beth Nash, Three Rivers Park District public and donor relations supervisor. “We found that people really do care a lot about the outdoors, the parks, and making sure people, especially kids, can enjoy the parks.”