In the midst of the state’s ongoing fiscal and economic challenges, Wyoming State Parks has received some exciting news in the form of private grants for major facility upgrades. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust recently awarded Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites more than $1.7 million for construction projects at Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site and Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site.
The Helmsley Charitable Trust granted $1.1 million to Fort Phil Kearny in Story for the Shining Mountains Interpretive Center, providing a spacious addition to the small existing visitor center that will include new museum exhibits and reconstruction of the 120-foot-high flagpole that once stood inside the walls of the historic fort. Wyoming State Parks will also be adding an adjacent outdoor amphitheater for programs and special events.
The Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site near Hyattville, which sits across the Bighorn Mountains from Fort Phil Kearny, will benefit from a $600,000 Helmsley grant establishing a new cultural and outdoor education center. The facility will feature all new exhibits and complement the existing historic barn on the property. The project is in the design phase and scheduled for completion in the fall of 2021.
Governor Mark Gordon recognized the Helmsley Charitable Trust for its timely and generous contribution to state parks and outdoor recreation in Wyoming.
“The events of the past year have highlighted the outstanding value of outdoor recreation at our parks, historic sites, and other public lands,” said Governor Gordon. “We thank the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their investment in Wyoming State Parks, which will benefit our citizens and visitors for generations to come.”
The grant funding could not have come at a better time, with Wyoming State Parks seeing a 1.3 million visitor increase in 2020 compared to 2019 boosting total visitation to more than 5 million.
“Even with budget reductions, our agency is looking to expand and improve capacity to manage the dramatic increase in visitation that we saw this year,” said Darin Westby, Director of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources. “Partnering with the Helmsley Charitable Trust
allows us to be more impactful with our project dollars. We are thankful for Helmsley’s generous support, which will provide a boost for local economies by attracting more visitors to the state and keeping them here a little longer, so that they can spend their tourist dollars and head on to their next adventure satisfied with what they experienced in Wyoming.”
In recent years, the Helmsley Charitable Trust has made significant investments in improving visitor experiences and educational opportunities at state and national parks in the upper Midwest.
“The Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site and Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site both hold significant cultural and historical value,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “We are excited to partner with Wyoming State Parks to build spaces for interactive learning, dynamic programming, and engaging experiences that will develop stewards of the land and history who have the desire to preserve and protect the area for future generations.”
These and other investments in the state’s outdoor recreation sector reflect the mission of Wyoming State Parks to improve communities, enrich lives, and be a driver for the state’s economy.
About the Helmsley Charitable Trust
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $3 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s Rural Healthcare Program funds innovative projects that use information technologies to connect rural patients to emergency medical care, bring the latest medical therapies to patients in remote areas, and provide state-of-the-art training for rural hospitals and EMS personnel. To date, this program has awarded more than $500 million to organizations and initiatives in the upper Midwest states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. Learn more at helmsleytrust.org.