Opinion

Too much of too many good things?

One thing that makes life on Bainbridge Island endlessly fascinating is the sheer scale of our collective dreams. The pursuit of excellence -- in our schools, our parks and programs, our social services -- often brings out a remarkable selflessness for the community weal, usually expressed through open checkbooks.

Yet even as our imaginations are not finite, we sometimes forget that our resources are. And with another high-dollar fund drive set to get under way in the coming months, one wonders whether the depths of our pockets may finally have been plumbed.

These thoughts are occasioned by Monday evening’s meeting on plans for public purchase of the Wyckoff property on Eagle Harbor, for development of a 55-acre Pritchard Park and Japanese-American internment memorial. Purchase price is likely $8 million, of which backers say about three-fourths

ideally would come from state and federal coffers. That leaves a shortfall of perhaps $2 million to be raised through private donations, with a campaign to start this summer.

Just how deep are island reserves? Our last two big-ticket fund drives are perhaps instructive.

Four years ago, backers that included the Bainbridge Island Land Trust drummed up $700,000 in private pledges in about six weeks ($1 million eventually) to save Blakely Harbor Park. That effort benefited from a message of immediacy: Buy now, or lose the property to development forever. But more recently, efforts to raise a half-million dollars to complete the new pool foundered. For want of apparent focus, the effort brought in maybe $400,000 -- half of that from two single donors -- then petered out. The effort may have been hampered by the fact that islanders had just approved a significant new tax burden for the facility, and disliked being tapped twice.

Now consider the array of high-dollar fund drives currently under way:

Bainbridge Public Schools Trust – A new player on the fund-raising front, the group hopes to raise $1.6 million to support teacher recruitment and retention in Bainbridge schools. The need persists, they say, despite island voters’ overwhelming support of a four-year school levy last month.

Bainbridge Island Historical Society – The group is actively working to raise $350,000 to move its museum to Winslow.

Bainbridge Island Community Endowment – Formed last year as successor to a neglected trust, this fund to support community capital projects is digging for private donations to build a seven-figure reserve.

And let’s not forget the Bainbridge Foundation – the best known and most widely supported of the bunch, yet struggling to get $550,000 in annual contributions as the number of individual donors stagnates.

These are not good days to be in the fund-raising business. Private foundations that were cash cows in the heady days of market growth are drying up. There simply aren’t that many dollars to go around, and islanders are increasingly asked to choose among too many worthy causes.

Which makes us wonder about the prospects for the Pritchard Park fund drive. Can Bainbridge Island want too much of too many good things? One gentleman Monday ventured that the drive needs to look beyond Bainbridge shores, and it’s hard to disagree with him.

The park is being pitched as one of regional significance -- of national import, when the Japanese American memorial is considered. Even with state and federal dollars, islanders could use some help.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 22 edition online now. Browse the archives.