Inside Philanthropy Covers Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s Big Investment in City Parks
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation finds itself facing a pretty remarkable question. How much can a philanthropy do for just two distinct regions, giving $1.2 billion in 20 years? (Well, it’s more money than that, given investment returns, and we’re actually down to just 16 years, but you get the picture.)
With such a place-based, spend-down mission, one approach the foundation has chosen—along with so many other regional funders lately—is to create some impressive parks and trails systems.
The foundation recently committed $200 million to create signature parks on the waterfronts of Buffalo and Detroit and their surrounding regions, and to advance regional trail systems. The idea is to deliver community and economic benefits to these cities, both of which have struggled with post-industrial decline, and to provide better connections between parks and neighborhoods.
It’s one of several new, high-dollar city parks projects powered by private wealth, often intended to elevate a city and its economy, and in some cases, even bring together fractured communities. The Wilson Foundation is also another example of longstanding wealth created in cities that have declined economically, now making grants to support their rebound...