Border-to-Border Trail

Parks, Trails & Green Design

Parks and trails greatly add to the quality of life of any community. They connect people and communities to each other and provide recreation opportunities by getting people moving while connecting to nature.

They enhance an area’s economic vitality. In October of 2017, the Foundation launched its Parks & Trails Initiative with $200 million in commitments — $100 in commitments each to Western New York and Southeast Michigan – on what would have been Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s 100th birthday. The commitments included $50 million each for the design, development and construction of a “Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park” in both Buffalo and Detroit. In addition, $50 million in each region was committed to help make connections and eliminate gaps in the burgeoning regional trail systems. Within the Foundation’s $200 million commitment – a total of $40 million (or 20%) – is earmarked for future maintenance and sustainability of these assets.

In addition, the Foundation is beginning to explore green infrastructure investments that focus on improving water quality, reducing combined sewer overflows, improving habitat and improving climate resiliency while complementing our parks and trails investments, as a way to build a healthier and more resilient region.

The planning for the two signature parks is well underway. In addition, the Foundation is now accepting requests for trails projects or planning projects that: 

  • 1

    Are regionally significant trails or direct connections to those trails

  • 2

    Connect communities and key anchor assets (recreation, cultural or economic)

  • 3

    Have significant community support

  • 4

    Demonstrate capacity to operate and maintain the space(s) after they are built

  • 5

    Garner additional leverage investment that is at or near 2/3 of the total project costs.

Grantee Spotlight

Apply For A Grant

Organizations in Western New York and Southeast Michigan within our four core funding areas are now welcome to apply through our online process.

Apply now

Additional Funding Opportunities

In addition to its direct grantmaking, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also established permanent endowment funds (“Legacy Funds”) for Design & Access at the following community foundations. In most cases, the grants from the Legacy Funds serve to support localized projects, for which a smaller grant can make all the difference. In some cases, it may also provide an opportunity to test out ideas and programs on a smaller, pilot level.