In 1997, Jack Neckels, Grand Teton National Park’s superintendent at the time, approached business leader and philanthropist Jerry Halpin with the idea of forming a nonprofit that would raise funds for a new visitor center. Grand Teton National Park Foundation began under the leadership of Jerry as board chair and the founding board members who agreed to help. This group included Clay and Shay James, Rob and Celia Wallace, Ed and Lee Riddell, Brad and Kate Mead, Nancy and Bob Jaycox, Anne and Ron Walker, John Townsend, and John Faraci.
The board, along with superintendents Jack Neckels, Steve Martin, Mary Gibson Scott, and the late Senator Craig Thomas, who facilitated an $8.5 million federal match of the private funding, was successful in raising $16.8 million. On August 11, 2007 the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center opened to the public. We estimate more than 5 million people have visited the impressive building designed by Peter Bohlin.
Since the visitor center’s opening, the Foundation and its work in partnership with the park has flourished. From annual initiatives supporting youth engagement, wildlife research, and historic preservation, to the multiyear renewal of trails and visitor services at Jenny Lake and the protection of 640 acres of critical habitat on Antelope Flats, this partnership has had a tremendous and long-lasting impact on Grand Teton.
The success of the Foundation over the last twenty-five years would not be possible without the dedicated supporters who care so deeply for this incredible national park and ecosystem. 6,657 donors have contributed more than $103 million since our founding—thank you for your generosity. As we look to the future, we are confident that together we can continue to enable tremendous outcomes to ensure the park we love today inspires visitors for decades to come.