ASSATEAGUE – Assateague Island National Seashore got a much needed financial shot in the arm last week when federal officials announced the park was one of 76 national parks across the country to receive Centennial Challenge matching funds.
The National Parks Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, and in preparation for the centennial, the country’s national parks are being invigorated for the next century. Earlier this year, President George W. Bush challenged the parks to seek philanthropic donations and promised the private sector contributions would be matched with federal dollars.
Assateague Island National Seashore and it private partners embraced the challenge and were able to raise roughly $65,000 for the Centennial Challenge. Consequently, federal officials last weekend announced Assateague was in line for $65,000 in matching funds, bringing the park’s total amount raised to $130,000. The surprise announcement came on the heels of a beach clean-up day held at Assateague in conjunction with National Junior Ranger Day.
“This is mainly due to our fantastic and very supportive partners, who donated a total of $65,000, which will be matched dollar for dollar with federal funds totaling $130,000,” said Assateague Island National Seashore Superintendent Scott Bentley, who applauded the park’s partners, specifically the Assateague Mobile Sportfishermen’s Association (AMSA), the Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) and a private donor who wished to remain anonymous.
The AMSA donated $50,000 for a marine life exhibit including aquaria for the new visitor’s center on Assateague, which is scheduled to begin construction soon. ACT donated $10,000 and the anonymous private donor added another $5,000, which will be used to complete production on “Back to the Wild,” a film in the works about Assateague’s famous wild horses.
National Seashore Chief of Interpretation and Education Rachelle Daigneault made the announcement last Saturday following the beach clean-up exercise in the Oversand Vehicle Zone in the national park. She was joined by ACT Director and Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips along with AMSA President Bill Justice, vice president Howard Quillen, and director Doug Jones, who all spent time helping with the beach clean-up and providing lunches for the volunteers.
“These are people who care about Assateague, and who, as park partners, share the responsibility of caring for Assateague,” said Daigneault.