`Lasting Gift' program expanded to county

Fundraiser initially ran by nonprofit allows use of parks for memorials

December 14, 2007|By Kimberly Marselas | Kimberly Marselas,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Bikers, hikers, bird-watchers and others who frequent Anne Arundel County parks can add a bench or support a flower garden project through a recently expanded donation program.

The "Lasting Gift" program, started eight years ago, originally sponsored by the nonprofit Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails organization, is now linked to the county's recreation and parks department. Residents can donate bricks, bike racks, fountains, playground equipment, plants and other park features as memorials.

"It's a great way for people to become a part of one of the parks or a trail," said Elizabeth Wyble, president of Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails. "It gives people a really good feeling. ... and also it benefits thousands of people."

Gifts can be directed to any of the county's regional parks, including Anne Arundel County Trails, Downs Park in Pasadena, Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis, Kinder Farm Park in Millersville and Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. Fort Smallwood Park in Pasadena is in the process of forming a Friends group and will also be able to accept donations.

The gifts will be administered by each Friends group and are tax-deductible. Prices for existing trails range from $100 for a brick to $2,000 for a green steel bench. Pictures and prices for some trail equipment are available at friendsof aatrails.org.

Friends volunteers purchase the equipment and plants to ensure each park maintains a consistent look.

Examples of lasting gifts along county trails include memorial bricks and a marble monument at Hatton-Regester Green along the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail in Severna Park, bricks along Odenton's Babington Green and memorial shrubs and dogwoods throughout the county.

Wyble worked with an Odenton couple who wanted to install a bench and tend a garden in honor of their dog, who loved going with them on bicycle rides.

Gifts don't have to be memorials; plaques can also honor the living or celebrate special events. Donors can also make cash gifts toward a large project, or negotiate with park officials to install or plant new features.

Dave Dionne, county chief of trails and natural areas, said the original Friends program has raised about $30,000 in donations since its inception.

"We'd explore any avenue that could help the park and park operations run more smoothly," said Mark Garrity, county parks administrator. "The public, they look at the park from a different [perspective] than we do. They can help enhance it and bring their ideas to fruition."

Wyble said the trails program has allowed for the creation of scenic resting areas and gardens without the use of tax dollars. By linking the county program to the nonprofit and its volunteers when he announced its expansion last month, County Executive John R. Leopold did not have to set up an office or hire additional employees. Wyble said she is happy more of each gift will be evident in the parks instead of going toward administrative overhead.

"I just love seeing all the tranquil places we're creating," she said. "There are just so many things happening in our parks."

Information on donating to specific parks is available by visiting the county's Web site or contacting the Parks Administration Office at 410-222-7317.

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