San Francisco, April 11, 2007 -- Today, the nonprofit Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, with its public agency partners the Presidio Trust and the National Park Service, announced a $15 million gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to continue the transformation of the Presidio into a great national park for all. Building on the Haas, Jr. Fund's support to the Crissy Field restoration in 1999, this new gift for the Presidio of San Francisco to the Parks Conservancy raises the Haas, Jr. Fund's philanthropy in the Golden Gate National Parks to $30 million total to date. Their combined gifts represent the largest philanthropic cash contribution ever received for America's national parks.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Robert Haas at the Presidio to announce the gift:The generosity of the Haas, Jr. Fund reflects the vision and commitment to the public good that has secured our national parks. The Presidio has stood for more than 200 years as sentinel to the Golden Gate. It continues to do so now as a national park, due in large part to the public-private partnership exemplified by the Haas family. This gift will help the Presidio realize its potential as a park for all people -- a shining jewel for our city." In 1996, Congress passed legislation drafted by Speaker Pelosi that created the Presidio Trust to preserve the Presidio as an enduring resource for the American people. This significant support from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund advances an important era of park building and the ongoing "post to park" conversion of the Presidio - an era begun in 1994 when this former military post became part of the Golden Gate National Parks. The latest gift from the Haas, Jr. Fund seeks to make the Presidio a park cherished by people of the Bay Area, especially those who may have limited access to outdoor settings and national parks. "For years now, the Presidio has been understandably focused on its financial mandate to be fiscally self-sufficient. We are so pleased that the Trust and the Parks Conservancy are now able to turn their attention to the Presidio's mission as a national park for all," said Robert D. Haas, a Haas, Jr. Fund Trustee. "As we did for Crissy Field, our intention with this gift is to help ensure the Presidio will be a place that is used and enjoyed by the entire community. Our national parks belong to all of us."
The Haas, Jr. Fund gift focuses on community access to the Presidio. Specifically, this new gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund supports the implementation of a comprehensive 24-mile pedestrian, hiking, and bicycle trail network at the Presidio; and the revitalization of the Presidio's Rob Hill Campground - the only overnight campground in San Francisco. These projects will advance the Presidio's value to the community as a national park for all and continue to realize the Presidio's potential as a national park destination that brings outdoor experiences to youth, families, and underserved communities - an aspect of particular priority to the Haas, Jr. Fund.
"This new gift and its call-to-action builds upon the Bay Area's love affair with the Presidio and the Golden Gate National Parks and demonstrates the civic spirit and generosity of our community," said Greg Moore, Executive Director of the Parks Conservancy. "We are deeply grateful for the Haas, Jr. Fund's commitment to improving our parks for the entire community."
The Haas, Jr. Fund gift provides important momentum to efforts of the Presidio Trust, which in cooperation with the National Park Service, has worked to preserve and enhance the open space of this national landmark site - including the trails, forest, and the natural areas. "Integral to the gift is the vision we share for the Presidio as a tremendous resource for our community, especially for the children and families of San Francisco," said Craig Middleton, Executive Director of the Presidio Trust. "We believe the outdoor experiences offered by national parks can be transformational for young people."
The gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund is intended to mobilize community affection for these parks and public generosity for their long-term benefit and stewardship. A portion of the gift - $10 million - is a challenge grant for the Trails and Bikeways project, asking Bay Area philanthropists and park supporters to join with the Haas, Jr. Fund in advancing the Presidio's mission as a national park for all with gifts of any amount.
From the beginning of the Presidio's conversion to a national park, the Haas, Jr. Fund has been instrumental in its transformation. When the Presidio's closure as a military post was announced, the late Walter A. Haas, Jr. served on the Presidio Council, a group of national volunteers advising the early transition from "post to park." Later, the Haas, Jr. family through the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund provided a $13.5 million leadership gift to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy for the restoration of Crissy Field, along with a $4.5 million gift from Colleen and Robert Haas. This leadership gift, along with many other generous financial and volunteer contributions helped make this shoreline site one of the region's most beloved public places and the recipient of national and international awards for the quality of design, environmental restoration and community engagement. The Haas, Jr. Fund recently made a $1.5 million additional gift for future enhancements at Crissy Field. Today, Walter J. Haas, the son of Walter Haas, Jr., serves on the Board of Trustees of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
"This generous gift reaffirms the importance of the Presidio to our local community, the region, and nation - and its vital role in the lives of Bay Area residents," said Brian O'Neill, General Superintendent of the Golden Gate National Parks. "From its earliest days, when Muir Woods was donated to the National Park Service as a national monument, philanthropy and citizen action have come together to create the Golden Gate National Parks." Today's gift from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund builds on that history and initiates another chapter of community support for these treasured national park lands. The Parks Conservancy, Presidio Trust, and National Park Service invite donors, friends, and supporters to contribute to the Haas, Jr. Fund challenge grant and help build the momentum to make the world's greatest urban national parks at the Golden Gate."