Park Foundation: Grants for Marine Conservation

OVERVIEW: Park is a progressive family foundation based in Ithaca, NY, that in recent years has become a hero among fracking opponents. It supports work to ensure drinking water in the United States is clean, affordable, accessible, and protected. Park has geographic interest in the eastern U.S., specifically, New York State and North Carolina. 

IP TAKE: Park is a unique freshwater funder in that it doesn’t support individual rivers or watersheds. It’s more interested in general water protection, advocacy, and policy.

PROFILE: While the Park Foundation has had a well-heeled environment program with a focus on water for years, it’s found itself in the spotlight recently for its staunch opposition to fracking in New York, the greater Marcellus Shale region, and North Carolina. 

The Park Foundation gives between $20 and $30 million annually to a pretty wide variety of programs, including media, higher education, and local grants to Ithaca and North Carolina. This family foundation was funded from the wealth of the late Roy H. Park, a packaged food industry and media executive. Park’s daughter Adelaide Gomer is the president of the foundation, and her daughter Alicia Wittink is vice president. While the largest chunk of its funding goes to college scholarships, Gomer has led the foundation in a progressive and policy-oriented direction in many areas, and is an active donor in Democratic and liberal candidates and causes. 

Even within its environment program, not all funding goes to fracking opposition. But it’s the topic that has drawn attention to Park since they began steadily increasing support for the issue.

The foundation’s funding for fracking opposition has taken a few forms, including backing for grassroots advocacy groups, public education, and research to determine the threat to water supplies. While it’s mostly focused on New York and North Carolina, Park has opposed fracking in the greater Marcellus Shale area, which spans Pennsylvania, into Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. 


While the foundation's opposition to fracking has caught the attention of people on both sides of the debate, funding on the issue evolved from the foundation’s broader focus on water issues. Fracking has steadily taken over a big chunk of its environment funding, but the foundation actually gives just as much to other water-related causes, such as helping communities protect their drinking water, advocating for strong water policies, and encouraging corporate responsibility.

Finally, the Park Foundation, as a nod to its namesake, has a particular interest in media projects, a program focus that also pops up throughout its giving. The funder likes projects to educate the public and generate media in general, including support for documentaries, public broadcasting projects and independent online media.  

One of the best things about the Park Foundation is that, for such a substantial funder, it is relatively proposal and grantee friendly. Grants typically hover around $50,000, but range quite a bit, as low as four figures. Most large grants don't exceed $100,000, and the foundation makes rare grants in the millions for its scholarship programs. To see a full list of its grantees, click here.

Park is wide open to proposals with quarterly deadlines, and accept letters of inquiry or just preliminary phone calls and emails to program staff. The foundation does not currently accept emailed or faxed proposals. This is of course, subject to change in the future. It does recommend potential new grantees send LOIs first, and, of course, stay within program interests to save everyone time. Grantseekers can find information regarding submission deadlines here.