A challenge inspired by the legacy of a remarkable conservationist

By Trust for Public Land
Published January 12, 2021

A challenge inspired by the legacy of a remarkable conservationist

As a boy, Charles Gresham accompanied his dad on a drive along Highway 1 through Big Sur, a 70-mile stretch of steep mountains along the central California Coast. The year was 1936, and the highway had just opened to cars, making Gresham and his father among the first motorists to complete what would soon become one of America’s most storied drives.

The awe-inspiring beauty of Big Sur made quite the impression on Charles, who later in life became a donor to The Trust for Public Land, in part because of the organization’s work to preserve and create public access to thousands of acres in the area. Ultimately, he named The Trust for Public Land as a charitable beneficiary of his estate. Charles lived a long and happy 98 years and passed away in 2019. In honor of his selfless dedication to public lands, the organization created the Gresham Challenge to inspire and invite more people to include parks and public lands in their estate plans.

Charles GreshamCharles GreshamPhoto credit: Charles Gresham

About the Gresham Challenge

The challenge invited new planned gifts of $50,000 or more from our community of supporters. For each qualifying gift, $50,000 was allocated from Mr. Gresham’s estate to support The Trust for Public Land’s ongoing work to create parks and protect land for people.  And our community responded with great generosity: in short order, twenty donors stepped up with a total of over $1.8 million dollars. Keep reading to learn more about a few of these fantastic supporters, and visit our Donor Stories page to meet more people who have made a planned gift to The Trust for Public Land. 

Park equity in Atlanta

“The Gresham Challenge was a dream opportunity to accomplish two essential financial objectives: immediate essential funding for local operations and future legacy funds for the challenges that will always lie ahead,” said Ralph Edwards of Atlanta, who answered the challenge along with his wife Ree. “This bonus, generously funded by Mr. Gresham, gave a deal junkie like me the opportunity to support both critical needs with one gift. It’s like a half-price sale for the good of Atlanta’s future.”

“The work of the full Trust for Public Land family has brought pleasure and much more to millions throughout America, and it has also brought much to the Sawyer family in purposeful experiences, terrific and inspiring people, and real joy and satisfaction,” said Chris Sawyer and Julie Ferguson Sawyer, also of Atlanta.

ga_enota05202017_12Enota Park, part of the Atlanta Beltline in Atlanta, GA.Photo Credit: Christopher T. Martin

As a result of planned gifts like these, “We now have resources to partner with community development organizations in one of Atlanta’s most challenged communities to bring new parks, equitable development, and hope to residents,” says Trust for Public Land Georgia State Director George Dusenbury.

Rising to the challenge of COVID-19 through parks

“This heartbreaking and terrifying pandemic has motivated me to realign my life and my philanthropy, with my values,” says donor Julie Parish, whose response to the challenge made $50,000 available immediately for parks in her home state of California. “Procrastination is no longer acceptable. It was this shift in my perspective, the reminder of the benefits of nature for all people during COVID-19, an enduring confidence in The Trust for Public Land, and the generous match offered by the Gresham Challenge that finally motivated me.”

“The public green spaces created by The Trust for Public Land help our most vulnerable communities cope with the pandemic, while bolstering their resilience to other challenges,” says California State Director Guillermo Rodriguez.

ca_equipo_verde_05032019_047In Los Angeles, a park group called the Equipo Verde (“Green Team”) has expanded their mission to provide mutual aid to their families and neighbors, helping a hard-hit community endure the pandemic.Photo credit: Jorge Rivas

Are you the next Charles Gresham?

The Trust for Public Land can help you create a legacy of the parks and public lands you love. We can help you plan for your financial future while supporting your conservation goals. We look forward to working with you, and we invite you to start building your legacy with The Trust for Public Land today. Learn more about options for planned giving today.

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