SEATTLE, April 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- This week The REI Foundation announced an unprecedented $1 million investment in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to inspire, educate and engage the next generation of outdoor stewards. Decades after Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of the New Deal, during which Americans planted more than 3 billion trees and created 800 parks, supporters of the outdoors are contributing to a national effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of the Interior to establish quality jobs, career pathways and service opportunities for youth and veterans in America's great outdoors.
Inspired by the 21CSC's goal to "preserve, protect and promote America's greatest gifts," The REI Foundation is funding projects in 19 national parks throughout the country, forming part of the co-op's multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with the National Park Foundation.
During the Centennial, REI is helping people to enjoy deeper park experiences through:
- Guides: The Co-op Guide to the National Parks—a crowdsourced, living guide to the national parks available on Android and iOS platforms—reveals hidden gems and reduces pressure on the most traveled park areas
- Trips: 10 percent of all revenue from more than 45 REI Adventures' national parks trips and America the Beautiful passes will be invested in the National Park Foundation
- Stories: Inspiring people to go deeper into the parks system, REI is sharing transformational experiences via the Mileposts podcast series
- Gear: REI has developed and curated a new line of gear for the Centennial, with 10 percent of all proceeds invested back into the National Park Foundation
"This is a once in a lifetime chance for REI to invest in the leaders who will help keep our parks healthy and accessible for the next 100 years," said Jerry Stritzke, REI president and CEO.
In the 2015 Stewardship Report, Stritzke shared his intention to begin a conversation with REI employees, members and the outdoor community at the annual member meeting about how the co-op could have a positive impact on the outdoors and society 100 years from now.
Stritzke continued, "Our co-op was born in the parks. They are some of the most inspirational outdoor places in the world. They are where our community feels at home, but they will disappear slowly if we don't take care of them. I have no doubt that these projects will make a big impact. As these folks transform the parks, they will have unforgettable, life-changing experiences that will hard-wire the value of the outdoors into their minds."
The projects that The REI Foundation is investing in will connect new communities to the outdoors. Young people—including underserved high school and college students, inner-city youth and multicultural groups—will get real-world work experience in nearby parks. They will be paid as stewards of the outdoors, revitalizing the nation's most iconic and inspiring places, building and maintaining trail access and improving safety to help visitors go deeper.
"We're grateful for private sector partnerships with companies like REI that encourage a lifelong ethic of stewardship of the great outdoors," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "Thanks to REI's generosity, we're putting young people and returning veterans to work restoring and protecting our nation's land, water and wildlife while creating a connection to nature and public lands that can last a lifetime."
"The goal of the centennial is to engage the next generation in national parks," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "So we are excited that this program will provide opportunities for young people who might not otherwise have a chance to be inspired by these incredible places."
Several projects will take place at a specific national park location—from the Santa Monica Mountains in California to Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.—while others will span multiple national park sites this summer. The REI Foundation also supported four projects last summer at Colorado's Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and in the Flagstaff area's National Monuments.
"Recognizing the opportunity that a 100th birthday provides, it is essential to have partners like The REI Foundation who are helping us meet our ambitious goal of inspiring millions of people from all backgrounds to discover their unique connections to America's national parks, how these places are relevant to their lives, and why it's important that we all actively participate in ensuring their protection for generations to come," said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks.
The following projects are made possible by The REI Foundation's investment, in partnership with supporting nonprofit organizations and other donors:
- California (Latino Heritage Internship Program): The Hispanic Access Foundation and Environment for the Americas will host more than 40 college students—including one intern per location—to develop interpretive programs, support museum and archival work, participate in archaeological fieldwork and engage in community outreach. These projects will take place at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park over 10 weeks.
- Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park): A crew of 10-16 high school and college age youth will join the Rocky Mountain Conservancy to improve the Bierstadt Lake Trail.
- Georgia (Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area): The Greening Youth Foundation will offer an employment opportunity for up to six high school youth to build and maintain trails during this four-week program.
- Montana (Glacier National Park): Spanning four to 10 weeks, 12-24 high school and college age youth will join the Glacier Conservancy to reconstruct the iconic Hidden Lake Trail at Logan Pass.
- Washington, D.C. (Rock Creek National Park): Fourteen inner-city high school students will work with the Student Conservation Association to repair the Valley Trail over eight to 10 weeks.
- Washington (Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park): A group of young people will help restore the iconic Wonderland Trail and Enchanted Valley Trail.
- Various states (Groundwork Green Teams): Groundwork USA will partner with up to 120 youth ages 14-18 to provide summer experiences that combine community service, outdoor recreation and leadership development. Projects range from two to six weeks at up to seven national park sites, emphasizing water-based recreation and work activities.
- Various states (Historically Black Colleges and Universities Initiative): The Greening Youth Foundation will work with approximately 50 college students to improve river access, provide ocean sciences education and convey social justice through art across multiple national park locations. This project will also support one to two interns per site to work with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program to develop case studies for water recreation.
About The REI Foundation
The REI Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Recreational Equipment, Inc. in 1993. The Foundation's mission is to help ensure that tomorrow's outdoor enthusiasts and conservation stewards reflect the diversity of America.
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation's largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 6 million active members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 144 stores in 35 states. If you can't visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI.com/outlet or the free REI shopping app. REI isn't just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs 150 custom-designed itineraries on every continent. REI's Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to–and steward–the outdoor places that inspire us.