Can you spare a chain saw? A bale of hay? Give to a needy park

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

IF you've ever enjoyed the beauty and serenity of a national park -- walked its paths, scaled its rock faces, or fished its rivers -- there's a way to give a little something back. Many parks are now issuing their own wish lists, of sorts.

The Grand Canyon National Park's ``Grand Gifts'' catalog, for example, contains 24 pages of items needed by the park, everything from nickel-and-dime items to hay for patrol horses at $125 a ton and repair of the park's 24-year-old workhorse bulldozer for $25,000 (or $250,000 to replace it).

Gifts have ranged from a $1 anonymous donation to the standby availability of a Cessna 182. Other recent gifts to the park include four pairs of cross-country skis, three chain saws, a log splitter, an electric generator, and two string trimmers.

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So far, the donations have added up to a savings of about $84,000, according to management assistant William K. Dickinson.

Although contributions to parks are nothing new, Leo Wilmette of the National Park Service says that in recent years parks have begun issuing these catalogs to itemize their needs and make it easier for people who want to contribute.

``Most people do not realize what it costs to run a national park,'' says Richard Marks, superintendent of Grand Canyon park. ``They are unaware of the parks' unmet needs.

``Although Grand Canyon National Park has been fortunate over the years to receive a great deal of public and congressional support,'' he adds, ``appropriations are never enough to meet all the park's needs.''

Glacier National Park, in northwest Montana, has also had good results with its ``Giving Guide,'' says Alan O'Neill, the park's assistant superintendent. Glacier has received about $4,000 in cash, some small equipment such as tents, and a life-insurance policy valued at $50,000 from a couple that has ``fallen in love with the park,'' says Mr. O'Neill.

``In addition, we had over 16,000 hours of volunteer time donated . . . valued at over $94,000,'' O'Neill adds.

Other parks have also seen donations increase as a result of their gift catalogs.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California have received about $1,200 in donations since sending out gift catalogs, says spokesman John J. Palmer. The largest gift, Mr. Palmer says, has been a back-country cabin valued at $3,500, an item not included in ``people'' donations.

With a frequent need to revegetate damaged sites and landscape developed areas at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Palmer explains, donations of as little as $5 are needed for each tree and shrub.

The construction of a bikeway costs $12 a foot, and a ``Trail For All People,'' a half-mile interpretive attraction, costs $13 a foot, he adds.

Donations to Whiskeytown National Recreational Area in California have included a ``Long Tom'' sluice box, installation of benches and clothes racks, equipment, and cash -- plus two fishing docks for the handicapped (valued at $25,000).

But despite the success of park catalogs so far, Anita J. Kennedy of the National Capital Region of the park system says that what is needed is ``a clear understanding that these publications are merely a tool to securing donations.

``One-on-one contact with private-sector supporters is crucial,'' she says. ``Mass mailings are not enough.''

For further information on giving to the national park of your choice, contact the National Park Service, Washington, D.C., 20240.

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