Bette Wallace grew up in Washington state, and even after she moved to California, the beauty of Washington’s national parks remained an intrinsic part of her. With her passing, she helped to secure the future of those parks with a $1 million donation directed to Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, and North Cascades National Park.
“On behalf of (Wallace’s) trust it was our family’s honor to make this donation on her behalf to the Washington’s National Park Fund knowing it will be used for many projects including a combination of saving lives and supporting volunteer infrastructure in the parks,” said Cheri Ryan, Wallace’s niece and the trustee of her estate.
That is exactly what the funds will be used for. In Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park, it will be added to a fund supporting a new dispatch system allowing operators to better monitor rangers out in the wilderness. Knowing where people are is intrinsic to keeping the park rangers safe. North Cascades is going to put their share towards improving their volunteer infrastructure, including better training and safety measures.
Sarah Creachbaum, superintendent of Olympic National Park, calls this a “pivotal time for Washington’s three largest national parks.” The federal Department of the Interior (which manages the parks system) has faced large budget cuts in recent years, exacerbating an existing maintenance backlog estimated at $11 billion. A recent plan to dramatically increase visitor fees to address this backlog was scrapped in the face of public furor. A million dollar donation may seem like a drop in the bucket, but it’s one of the largest donations the Washington national parks have seen in decades.
Bette Wallace’s legacy will be one of security for our greatest national treasure: the vast, sprawling parks system enshrined into law nearly 150 years ago.