BI Parks Foundation adds Trails to its list of Responsibilities

BI Parks and Trails Foundation logo 2022Branding and re-branding is usually associated with business and Corporate America. No longer. Government entities – both locally and nationally – are re-branding themselves more often than not these days to better reflect their missions, demographics and logistics. One sterling local example is the highly-respected Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation, which has rebranded itself as the “Bainbridge Island Parks & Trails Foundation,”  – a recent move aimed at accenting its position as a leader in the planning and funding of local public trails.

Trails Map image courtesy of BI Parks & Trails website“Public trails are at the nexus of outdoor recreation, community health, sustainability and climate resilience,” says Mary Meier, Parks & Trails Foundation executive director. “Adding ‘trails’ to our name affirms our commitment to an island where ample trails link neighborhoods, parks, schools, culture and commerce, open and accessible to all.”

The nonprofit Parks & Trails Foundation enjoys a close partnership with the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, the island’s local public park agency.

Where the Park District owns island parks and runs recreation programs with its taxing authority, the Parks & Trails Foundation raises private donations and grants for projects that would otherwise go unfunded. Gifts to the Parks & Trails Foundation, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization, give donors a tax benefit.

Strawberry Hill ParkFor example, in 2021, the Foundation channeled more than $1.7 million in private funding to local park and trail projects, including the purchase of 10 acres to expand Strawberry Hill Park.

“What we do for park users, the Parks & Trails Foundation extends and amplifies through its network of private donors,” adds Terry Lande, Bainbridge Metro Park District executive director. “They’re a multiplier for parks and trails. Many projects just wouldn’t be possible without their efforts.”

The organization was chartered in 1998 as the Bainbridge Island Park Foundation, and served primarily as a small community grant maker. Since hiring its first full-time executive director in 2014, the Foundation has rapidly expanded its capacity and work on an array of park, trail and stewardship programs.

Founders Courts courtesy of Bainbridge Island Pickleball, BIPRD - Battle Point ParkThe Foundation led the successful $600,000-plus campaign for the new KidsUp! playground, and raised substantial funding for the Founders Courts Pickleball center, at Battle Point Park, among many recent projects. A $1 million gift through the Foundation allowed the 10-acre Strawberry Hill Park addition, for a new, future bike park and expanded dog park.

The Foundation has grown into a leader in trail planning and development, through its partnerships with the Park District, the City of Bainbridge Island, and other organizations.

The Foundation recently granted $50,000 to the City of Bainbridge Island, to help develop a master plan to continue the Sound to Olympics Trail from Winslow north to the Agate Pass Bridge. The STO is envisioned as a spine linking up with smaller neighborhood trails, to promote safe, non-motorized travel around the island.

The City will soon begin a STO Trail Master Plan, to identify a preferred route along the west side of the highway from Downtown Winslow north to the Agate Pass Bridge. The Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation has given $50,000 to the planning effort, with another $25,000 from the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District.

“We share a vision for an island connected by safe, accessible trails, and the STO can be the spine for the north end,” says Meier. “That the STO coincides with a much greater vision for a nationwide trail, it brings color and context to what we’re working toward here and puts it in a much more exciting light.”

Sakai Park Trail - Kevin DwyerOnce completed, the STO would run 28 miles, from the Downtown Winslow ferry terminal to the Hood Canal Bridge. Bainbridge Island’s portion would be built in seven segments over a number of years, as funding allows. The upcoming Master Plan will include preliminary construction designs for the probable next segment, from Sakai Park to Madison/305.

Meanwhile, the Foundation is securing new trail easements island-wide, to complete the long-sought Winslow-to-Gazzam Lake route and a number of smaller, neighborhood connectors. To date the Foundation has secured 21 trail easements, helping build out a local public trails network now 42 miles long. The Foundation is also supporting the Summer Trails Crew program for trail construction and maintenance.

“Our very first fundraising event was the Trillium Trail Run, so we’ve been committed to trails all along,” Meier notes. “Now we’ve put it in bold – trails connect us, and we’re bringing more trails to the community.”

The Bainbridge Island Parks & Trails Foundation is located in the Marge Williams Center, 221 Winslow Way W. Suite 104, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.

You can pick up a copy of the Bainbridge Island Parks & Trails map at the Visitor Information Kiosk at the Ferry Terminal and the Visitor’s Desk at the Chamber of Commerce, or order online here.

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