Celebrating Gary Cunningham’s Legacy

Gary Cunningham pictured at Spring Dinner 2017 where he was awarded GPC's highest honor, the Conservation Award.

For half a century, Gary Cunningham lead the way for conservation in the Puget Sound region. As one of the founding fathers of Great Peninsula Conservancy, Gary’s recent passing has been keenly felt by our board, staff, and members. It is hard to envision GPC without Gary, but we know that every acre protected is a testament to his vision, and that the natural habitats, rural landscapes, and open spaces of the Great Peninsula are his legacy.

Gary and Marilyn Cunningham

In 1969, Gary was a founding member of Hood Canal Environmental Council, and served on the board of this all-volunteer group for 48 years. In 1989, Gary founded Kitsap Land Trust, one of the four all-volunteer land trusts that merged to form Great Peninsula Conservancy in 2000. Gary led the merger with the goal of pooling resources to hire staff and to ensure the sustainability of the organization. In addition to serving as GPC’s first President, Gary also served terms as Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and additionally, as a pro bono attorney for GPC for 15 years. Assisting in everything from real estate transactions, to negotiating and preparing conservation easements, it is impossible to tell the story of GPC without Gary as a key player. In addition to his gifts of time and creative vision, Gary and his wife Marilyn have also made significant financial contributions to GPC over many years. Despite his battle with ALS, Gary continued to serve GPC as a member of the Conservation Committee until his passing on August 9th, 2020.

Through his work, Gary has been instrumental in protecting thousands of acres of habitat, woodlands, farmlands, vistas, and miles of trails and streams. Although his experience, passion, and tireless commitment to our work will be greatly missed, GPC knows that the best way to honor Gary’s legacy is to continue the work that he started.

For more information about Gary’s life:  Kitsap Sun

A new decade demands a new name for GPC’s Conservation Award

In the spring of 2020, GPC staff recommended that the name of the GPC Conservation Award get an update. After a unanimous vote of approval from the GPC board, the award that Gary himself had won in 2017 was renamed in his honor.  The Gary Allen Cunningham Conservation Award will continue to recognize a partner or volunteer who has made a significant contribution to GPC’s mission, and be presented at GPC’s annual fundraising event.  Although GPC members were unable to gather at Spring Dinner this year, the award will be presented on October 1st at GPC’s 20th Anniversary Virtual Celebration.