GREAT FALLS — The Glacier National Park Fund has set a $3.5 million fundraising goal for upgrades and restoration as the park nears its centennial.
“If we leave the park to what the federal government can afford, we won’t have the experiences that we now enjoy, said Jane Ratzlaff, executive director of the fund. “We want this park to be better than the federal government can afford.”
Ratzlaff said the fund received Park Service permission to raise the money about three weeks ago. The fund has already raised about $900,000, including a $500,000 pledge from BNSF Railway that was announced two years ago.
“BNSF supports Glacier National Park from our historic ties up to our present-day operations along the border of this important national asset,” said company spokesman Gus Melonas. “We found it very fitting to be a major sponsor of this upcoming event.”
The first $1 million raised will be spent on a birthday party in 2010, to produce a centennial book detailing the park’s history. It will also fund legacy projects, such as a $37,500 effort to preserve the fire lookout tower at 7,244 feet on the north shoulder of Heaven’s Peak, which towers over Lake McDonald.
“Heaven’s Peak is a glorious place, but the fire lookout tower is falling apart and, if something isn’t done, it will disappear,” Ratzlaff said.
Other physical improvements include making more trails accessible to people with disabilities.
The fund also hopes to raise $1 million to support educational endowments and programs, $1 million for preservation and trail repair and $500,000 for research on the park and its flora, fauna and geology.
Jack Potter, the park’s research chief, says his first priority for research money would be to put together a workshop on the effect of climate change on the park.
“We’re hoping to do inventories of resources, ecology studies and stressors on plants and animals.”