GPOF: An Outdoor Fund by and for the People of Prescott

by Ellen Bashor, Community Nature Center Education Directory, City of Prescott • Photo by Ellen Bashor

Did you know that many of the trail signs, kiosks, benches, bridges, and more that you see and use along Prescott’s trails are created and funded by local donors just like yourself?

That’s right. Our City’s Recreation Services Department cannot build and maintain this extensive outdoor recreation paradise on its own. Many outdoor amendments and events exist because people like you care and donate to make this little mountain town the thriving outdoor recreation community it is today. 

This process happens through a local collaborative fund of the Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County called the Greater Prescott Outdoors Fund. Established through joint efforts from several nonprofits and local organizations such as Yavapai Trails Association, Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, and the late Open Space Alliance, the Greater Prescott Outdoors Fund (GPOF) was created to enable planned giving toward stated outdoor and nature-based projects in our community. 

Through annual donations and endowments, GPOF touches tens of thousands of residents and visitors through numerous funded projects of city and nonprofit initiatives across the greater Prescott area. These include widespread trail and infrastructure projects; amenity and informative installations; student, family and community education projects; courthouse and downtown events; search and rescue teams; easement and open-space purchases; and much more.

Donation categories within the fund include: open space, natural parklands, education, bicycles and pedestrians, trails, donor directed, open funds and more.

Every year, tens of millions of Americans participate in outdoor activities across the nation each year and 3-4 million visit public lands, just here in Arizona. For the millions of Americans, like our Prescott residents, exploring the great outdoors is not just an enjoyable pastime. New research shows that time outdoors is actually correlated to living healthier and happier lives and that outdoor recreation is a big boost for local economies.

In Arizona alone, our great outdoors generates $21.2 billion dollars and contributes to the well-being of at least 4 million Arizonans, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. As new evidence regarding the benefits of the outdoors emerges, including reduced stress and depression levels or healthier lungs and hearts, the Prescott Recreation Services Department would like to see the number of people receiving these benefits grow as well. 

However, as outdoor-user numbers grow, it is vital we have the infrastructure in place to protect and preserve the natural areas we are enjoying. It’s also important that we ensure everyone can access the benefits of the outdoors as well. 

These two issues are of utmost importance to the City of Prescott, the Greater Prescott Outdoors Fund, and our local philanthropic community. It is important to protect and improve our outdoor spaces and ensure those spaces are accessible to everyone no matter age, ability or economic opportunity. 

Despite large visitation numbers, the Outdoor Industry Association’s research still shows that over 40% of Arizonans don’t receive the benefits of outdoor recreation. Excessive screen time among children, youth, and even adults is contributing to this phenomena. 

This is one of the reasons the GPOF actively supports community and school-based learning opportunities that encourage young people to get outdoors. This collaborative fund works to not only preserve the public lands we have today, but build the generation of outdoor enthusiasts and public lands stewards of tomorrow.

Through the Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County, the Greater Prescott Outdoors Fund is expertly managed, and a committee of local outdoor representatives oversees the donor contributions, processes the grant requests, and ensures 100% of donor directed fund distributions are used for community outdoor improvement and engagement initiatives. 

You can learn more or begin your planned giving process by visiting the website www.greaterprescottoutdoorsfund.org or by contacting the Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County’s philanthropic adviser Lisa Sahady at 928-583-7815 or lsahady@azfoundation.org. 

Thank you for joining Prescott’s legacy of a thriving outdoor community for all!