At 2,565 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America, and one of the icons of the national park that encloses it. By the early 2000s, though, the falls were blighted by an ugly bridge, asphalt paths, and a polluted parking lot. In 2003, a private capital campaign was launched to raise $12.5 million to revitalize the visitor experience in the area. Bay Area landscape architect Lawrence Halprin was hired to head up the design, with private donations raised by the Yosemite Fund covering three quarters of the cost. Fully 14,500 individual donors contributed to the effort, and construction was complete a speedy two years after the goal was first announced. The new Lower Yosemite Falls area included re-vegetated areas, natural-looking paths and bridges, 52 acres of habitat restoration, new restrooms, educational exhibits, trail maps, a bus stop, and more. This was just one of more than 300 projects, expending $55 million, that have been privately funded by what is now known as the Yosemite Conservancy. Similar donor funds have sprung up at other parks, and the overarching National Park Foundation now privately raises and grants more than $31 million annually.
- Projects of the Yosemite Conservancy, yosemiteconservancy.org/map
- Evolution of philanthropy in the National Park system, nps.gov/partnerships/evolvphiltpy5.htm