The Parks Foundation of Highland Park was established in 2016 to collaborate with residents, community groups, and partner organizations and to support the Park District’s projects that enhance the parks and community life within Highland Park.

History

In 2016, the Parks Foundation of Highland Park was established to collaborate with residents, community groups, and partner organizations and to support the Park District’s projects that enhance the parks and community life within Highland Park. The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is an independent, community-led, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

The formation of a Parks Foundation was an initiative outlined in the Park District GreenPrint 2024 10-year master plan. It was the first initiative to be completed from that plan.

"Meeting the growing and changing needs of the community and keeping taxes and program fees in check requires a delicate balance," said Liza McElroy, executive director for the Park District of Highland Park about the formation of the Foundation. "The Parks Foundation will bridge the gap between public resources and the need to maintain our vibrant park system."

Approximately 6% of the total resident property tax is paid to the Park District of Highland Park. Taxes provide about 50% of the park district’s annual operating budget of more than $20 million. The balance of income is derived from user fees, memberships, grants, and donations.

The formation of citizen-governed local park foundations and "friends groups" are common place for local park districts and recreation departments across the country to generate needed revenues that support the community park and recreation experience. Many have been in existence since the 1970s and they are gaining in popularity. As 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organizations, these groups have access to fundraising opportunities and grants that are not available to park districts.

"There are over 1,900 local park foundations, friends of the parks, and/or related groups legally organized in communities throughout the United States," said Donald Ortale, executive director of the National Association of Park Foundations. "Of the estimated 200 local park foundations in Illinois, data suggests that approximately 70% of these foundations were formed since 2001."

Parks Foundation of Highland Park Goals

The Parks Foundation of Highland Park is a 501(c)3 charitable corporation formed in 2016 that directly supports the Park District of Highland Park mission “to enrich community life through healthy leisure pursuits and an appreciation for the natural world.”  

The Parks Foundation believes that every resident deserves the opportunity for an enriched healthy life.  We do that by providing resources to ensure everyone in Highland Park has access to the health benefits of our park district including:

- Raising funds for the SMILE Grant-in-Aid program that enables residents experiencing economic difficulty access to park district programs

- Raising funds to enhance the Park District’s quality recreation programs, services and facilities

- Encouraging advocates and supporters to give time, money and talent

The Parks Foundation directly serves all residents of Highland Park and indirectly anyone outside the city that uses the services, programs, or facilities provided by the Park District of Highland Park.