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She loved Washington's national parks, so she left them $1 million

Robert Portello of Graham hikes to the Fremont Lookout trail near Sunrise.
Robert Portello of Graham hikes to the Fremont Lookout trail near Sunrise. Staff file

Washington state's three national parks are planning upgrades thanks to a $1 million donation from the estate of a woman who loved the outdoors, according to Washington's National Park Fund.

The recently announced gift comes from the estate of Bette Wallace, who grew up in Washington and later lived in California.

“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,” Cheri Ryan, Wallace’s niece and the estate's trustee, said in a statement.

Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks plan to use the money for a computer dispatch system that will allow operators to monitor rangers in the wilderness. The aim of the system is to improve the safety of employees and decrease response times.

North Cascades National Park plans to use its share of the money to improve infrastructure for volunteers.

“This funding comes at a pivotal time for Washington’s three largest national parks,” Sarah Creachbaum, Olympic National Park's superintendent, said in a statement.

“Our country’s national parks have experienced many financial challenges in recent years and there is a significant maintenance backlog. This wonderful donation via WNPF enables us to invest in much-needed safety technology that can quite literally save lives in Washington for years to come.”

Washington's National Park Fund, a philanthropic partner of the state's national parks, has given $4 million to the parks in recent years.

“We wish Bette was still here so the park rangers and I could personally show her all of the significant park infrastructure enabled by her major gift," the fund's executive director, Laurie Ward, said in a statement released by the organization. "Not only will it provide immediate vital support to Washington’s national parks, it ushers in a new level giving for WNPF.

"With so much passion for Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks, we foresee that this will be the first of many gifts at this level.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497
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