OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — With the help of a $1 million donation from the estate of Bette Wallace, Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are teaming up to purchase a computer-aided dispatch system.
Washington’s National Park Fund announced last week the gift, given by the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust, would be split evenly between the three national parks the WNPF supports — Olympic, Mount Rainier and North Cascades.
The new system will facilitate tracking employees and responding during emergencies.
“This funding comes at a pivotal time for Washington’s three largest national parks,” said Sarah Creachbaum, superintendent of Olympic National Park. “Our country’s national parks have experienced many financial challenges in recent years and there is a significant maintenance backlog.
“This wonderful donation … enables us to invest in much-needed safety technology that can quite literally save lives in Washington for years to come.”
Wallace, who was born in 1924, grew up in Washington state and lived a life of adventure, according to Washington’s National Forest Fund.
She traveled the world, skied, played golf and in her last years had a special relationship with the squirrels outside her back door, the fund said in a news release.
She died in her home Dec. 4, 2016, in Mountain View, Calif., according to her obituary.
“On behalf of her trust it was our family’s honor to make this donation on her behalf to the Washington’s National Park Fund knowing it will be used for many projects including a combination of saving lives and supporting volunteer infrastructure in the parks,” said Cheri Ryan, Wallace’s niece and trustee of her estate.
Park spokeswoman Penny Wagner said Olympic National Park is using $100,000 for its share of the system and that the remaining funds will go into an endowment.
She said by partnering with Mount Rainier National Park, the two parks will be able to save money and more easily work together when there is an emergency and to improve the safety of visitors and employees.
The parks provide dispatch services and operations for law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical, fire and all other all-hazard responses.
Park employees currently carry personal locator beacons and with the new CAD system, dispatch operators will be able to see the whereabouts of all park employees on one display. This will greatly improve employee safety and response times within the park during regular and emergency operations, Wagner said.
One of the benefits of tracking employees will be to ensure larger areas are covered and patrolled without inadvertent overlay, she said.
Wagner said currently park officials have a radio system in place that they use to communicate with people in the back country, but the current system doesn’t track people, she said.
“It’s not just a system that allows you to track people,” she said, adding it will help park officials more effectively connect with other local law enforcement and other federal resources.
The system will allow the park to more effectively collect data and more accurately illustrate work volumes and calls for service.
She said it would also make the park more effective at responding during an earthquake or tsunami.
“We are so grateful for the lovely and exceptionally generous gift from the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust,” said Laurie Ward, executive director of WNPF. “Not only will it provide immediate vital support to Washington’s national parks, it ushers in a new level of giving for WNPF. With so much passion for Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks, we foresee that this will be the first of many gifts at this level.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].