Ferry County Rail Trail Partners in northeastern Washington State just raised $17,100 in an online auction of a ukulele signed by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder. That kind of creative fundraising and marketing shows how large gifts can be generated in small rural areas to have big impacts on developing trails. The Ferry County Rail Trail Partners are moving quickly to complete their 30-mile trail, which was largely designated as a non-motorized corridor last year, and which will eventually connect as an international trail into Canada. The funds from the ukulele auction will be combined with a Transportation Enhancements grant from Washington State to help deck the trestle over Curlew Lake and improve the surfaces around the lake."Funding this rail-trail is a direct investment in our economic, social and environmental infrastructure, as well as a way to preserve and communicate the amazing geological and cultural history of our area," says Bob Whittaker, president of the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners. "This [trail] will have very, very positive long-term results for our region." "Eddie just called me to congratulate us, say that he was happy to be a part of it and wished Ferry County luck with its 30-mile rail-trail project.," said Whittaker after the auction ended. "Big thank you to Eddie, Pearl Jam and the whole Pearl Jam management team for helping our community!"
To be fair, not every trail organization has the music industry connections of Whittaker, who happens to work with REM. But even if you don't have Eddie Vedder's number in the your cell phone, the Ferry County auction still offers a great lesson in using available resources. Other trail groups have successfully used community events, corporate or foundation partnerships and other drives to raise money and awareness for a project. If you've used or heard of other great fundraising ideas, let us know! Photos: Eddie Vedder with the signed ukulele, and a trestle along the trail corridor, courtesy of Bob Whittaker.
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