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Group aims to keep parks, pools vibrant

Spokane Parks Foundation campaign raising funds for projects

The Spokane Parks Foundation is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and has taken on a new project to keep money flowing to parks throughout the Spokane area.

The organization recently started a $2.5million “Plant a Seed” campaign to raise additional money for park projects and scholarships.

The foundation’s list of accomplishments is impressive – it’s raised nearly $2 million during its 60 years of work – and the foundation enjoys a strong reputation in the community.

Projects over the years include the original Gaiser Conservatory building, Looff Carrousel restoration, the Red Wagon sculpture, the runner statues in Riverfront Park, the SpokAnimal Dog Park, disc golf courses, water fountains at Plantes Ferry Park, tree plantings, doggie bag dispensers and “The Gathering Place” monument at Chief Garry Park.

About five years ago, the foundation expanded its reach to provide funding for parks and park programs throughout the county, including an effort in Millwood to restore a wading pool there, said Bonnie Tapscott, a foundation board member.

Another project at Gleneden Park, north of the Spokane city limits, supported the efforts of two local Girl Scouts to make sure the park was maintained.

Money also goes toward summertime concerts in parks.

The foundation often acts as a fiscal sponsor for community fundraising events and projects through its tax-exempt status.

During summer months, the foundation provides funding for scholarships and swimsuits. Children are not allowed to swim if they don’t have suits, so the foundation helps them get outfitted.

“People think taxes pay for parks. No. It doesn’t cover all of the need,” said Phyllis Holmes, co-president of the foundation.

“Parks can build the pools, but we can get kids into the pools,” she said.

Total grants and scholarships in 2011 was $60,000, but that amount has varied over the years.

The Parks Foundation trustees first met in January 1952 and adopted bylaws after being authorized by the city Park Board a few months earlier. The foundation was headed by Herb Hamblen for 27 years after his father, Laurence Hamblen, got the foundation started as Park Board president.

Many of the city’s leading benefactors contributed to the foundation in its earlier years.

Today, the foundation operates with one paid employee. The board has representatives from throughout Spokane County.