Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Announces Endowment to Enhance and Strengthen Parks System, Dedication for Lewis Nine Springs E-Way

September 09, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858
County Executive


A new public/private partnership is paving the way for a historic endowment that will help strengthen and enhance the Dane County Parks System for generations to come, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


The new fund, “The Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment,” will be managed by the Madison Community Foundation and enable anyone with a passion for the parks to make a tax refundable donation of any asset, including cash, stock and real estate. 


After allowing the fund some time to grow, the Madison Community Foundation will distribute a small percentage of the Endowment to Dane County Parks every year  to support education programming, interpretation and volunteer opportunities in the county’s parks system.


“The Friends of the Dane County Parks Endowment will be a lifelong resource that will strengthen our parks system and our core mission of connecting people to our natural resources,” said Parisi.  “Our parks system is an important reason why so many people choose to live and work in Dane County – our parks inspire, teach, and unite all of our communities.”


Many of the county’s park amenities are available to the public for free.  The new endowment will enable the county’s Parks Division to enhance the parks experience for the more than 2 million people who visit them every year, and to attract even more people to the parks. 


Funds could be used to offer more naturalist walks and campfire talks; interpretive signing along hiking trails and educational displays at park historical sites; day camps and other programming to connect school groups or underserved populations with the parks; help strengthen and increase collaboration between county park friends groups; increase volunteer efforts to educate and maintain county parks, and more.


The Madison Community Foundation is offering a 2 to 1 matching grant of $50,000 through December of 2014 to help the endowment get off to a strong start.

The Phil and Elizabeth “Libby” Lewis Family, who will be honored with a dedication ceremony this week to commemorate the re-naming the “Nine Springs E-Way” the “Lewis Nine Springs E-Way,” will be one of the endowment’s first donors with a generous $10,000 gift.


“The Lewis’ have been leaders in the conservation movement in Dane County – and influential well beyond - for decades,” said Bob Sorge, President of the Madison Community Foundation. “It’s wonderful to see this important recognition of their work together and an honor for the Madison Community foundation to steward an endowment that will continue the environmental awareness and education that was so important to Libby and still influenced by Phil.”


“Dane County’s legacy of protecting and managing environmental corridors requires an ongoing education and interpretation effort to explain why we protect these important environmental and recreational systems,” said Professor Phil Lewis.  “The Friends of Dane County Parks endowment will allow us to do just that in perpetuity. We hope that many other park users will support this effort.”

Through the teachings and advocacy of both Professor Phil Lewis and his wife, Libby Lewis, Dane County adopted the world’s first ‘E-Way’ project area.  The e-way corridor (extending from Dunn’s Marsh at Seminole Highway east to Lake Waubesa)  includes more than 1,300 county-owned acres combining educational, environmental, esthetic, ecological, and exercise resources for visitors and residents.  Professor Lewis was a pioneer of this E-Way concept – now a major decision making tool used in land use decisions throughout the world.  


Libby  Lewis passed away on February 1, 2012.  She served with great distinction on the Dane County Park Commission for 26 years, from 1981 to 2007. During that time she pursued sound land use and environmental planning for all projects and was a tireless advocate for the acquisition of land for the public to enjoy. 


Libby and Phil Lewis brought many other gifts to Dane County, particularly in the county parks system.  Together, they founded the Friends of Dane County Parks Foundation, which has provided significant private financial resources to the parks system.  They were also tireless supporters of the Lussier Family Heritage Center, which is located in the heart of the Nine Springs E-Way. 


“Phil has been an inspiration for many of us, students and colleagues for over forty years and Libby was a valued and respected colleague on the Parks Commission for nearly twenty years,” said Dane County Park Commission Chair Bill Lunney.  “Their teamwork on many environmental issues has set a standard of excellence in our community.”


The Lewis Nine Springs E-Way dedication ceremony will be held on Thursday, September 12th at the Lussier Heritage Center (3101 Lake Farm Road, Madison) from 5pm to 7pm.


Creation of the endowment requires final approval by the Dane County Board.  A resolution authorizing the new partnership will be introduced at the Board’s meeting on Thursday, September 12th.


Individuals interested in making a gift to The Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment are encouraged to contact Darren Marsh, Dane County Parks Director, at marsh@countyofdane.comor at 608.224.3766 or Harmony Kronick Operations Director at the Madison Community Foundation at 608.232.1763.

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