Willamette Falls Trust—the key philanthropic and community engagement partner of the Riverwalk—is proud to announce $7 million in new gifts today, generously donated from two philanthropic families. Connie Ballmer, the co-founder of Ballmer Group, has donated $5 million towards the Riverwalk, and the Ann and Bill Swindells Charitable Trust has donated $2 million.
Ballmer grew up in Oregon City and worked at the Crown Zellerbach mill on the west side of Willamette Falls as a college student. She founded the Ballmer Group with her husband and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Based in Portland, Ore., the Ann and Bill Swindells Charitable Trust focuses on improving the quality of life for Oregonians, and seeks to sustain the state’s cultural, scientific and historical endeavors.
"It’s as if someone put a roof on the Grand Canyon and kept it hidden away for all these years,” said Connie Ballmer about the Falls. “It's time to lift the roof off Willamette Falls so that more Oregonians can experience this beautiful place. These kinds of projects don’t come along very often, so it’s an important moment for the region and state. I am delighted to lend support to Willamette Falls Trust and Oregon City’s beautiful waterfront.”
The current plans for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk include repurposing one of the former mill buildings into a three-story structure which will provide visitors with an overlook of the falls and Willamette River, restored habitat and gathering spaces as well as historic and cultural interpretation of the site.
“These generous gifts buoy our efforts to complete the first phase of a world-class Riverwalk, demonstrating community and regional support of our plans to create a new experience at Willamette Falls that will give everyone new opportunities to explore the rich habitat, culture and history of this significant place,” said Alice Norris, Board Chair of Willamette Falls Trust.
The Willamette Falls Riverwalk is a public/private partnership, with government and nonprofit organizations working together to bring the project to life. Willamette Falls Trust works alongside the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, a four-government effort comprised of Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro and the State of Oregon.
With a fundraising goal of $35 million for Phase One of the Riverwalk, $19.5 already contributed by the Willamette Falls Legacy Project partners, and this additional $7 million donated by individuals, the project has now raised more than 75% of the funds needed to meet the goal. A capital campaign to raise the remaining $8 million is currently underway.