Five U.S. cities will see five urban and suburban areas transformed into areas for outdoor recreation, thanks in part to more than half a million dollars in grant funding from REI this year.
REI is investing a total of $603,000 in nonprofit partner, as part of the co-op’s rewilding efforts to provide better access to the outdoors in cities. This year’s investment marks the third year of a multi-year effort to increase outdoor recreation opportunities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Since 2015, the co-op has contributed over $1.6 million to rewilding efforts.
“With our rewilding grants, our goal is to reimagine how people connect with the outdoors while living in large metropolitan areas,” said Kristen Ragain, REI philanthropy and community partnership manager. “As more of the population moves to urban areas, and cities continue to develop, it’s important to ensure there are outdoor spaces for people to enjoy the rewards and benefits of a life outdoors.” The average American spends 95 percent of their lives indoors.
Since 2015, REI has partnered with local nonprofits to help city-dwellers reconnect with nature. REI funds have supported the following rewilding projects:
• Southeast Chicago: The co-op’s investment is supporting the long-term transformation of the Southeast Side into a thriving outdoor recreation hub. This project has supported the development of a brand that raises awareness for the area, planning and implementing transportation options that will improve access for the community and developing the Big Marsh property to include mixed-use trails, future paddling opportunities, and one of the biggest mountain bike parks in the country. REI is partnering with the Chicago Parks Foundation, Active Transportation Alliance and Friends of Big Marsh on this project.
• Los Angeles – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument: The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in the Angeles National Forest provides recreational opportunities for millions of people in the Los Angeles area. The co-op’s investment in the National Forest Foundation and The Wilderness Society supports sustainable access, restoring and rerouting trails, enhancing infrastructure and increasing connectivity between the city and Monument by linking urban trails and developing alternate transit-to-trails transportation options.
• San Francisco – Bay Area Ridge Trail: When complete, the Bay Area Ridge Trail will total 550 miles and circumnavigate the Bay Area, surrounding 8 million people. Currently, 365 miles of the trail are open to the public. The co-op’s investment is helping accelerate completion by increasing the Bay Area Ridge Council’s capacity and supporting efforts to convene key stakeholders.
• Seattle – the Evolution of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River: This wilderness playground is 20 miles from the 15th largest metropolitan area in the nation. Few other major population centers stand so close to such vast, accessible, public natural lands. REI is partnering with The Greenway Trust to help chart a sustainable future for the Middle Fork, not only by building trails and facilities, but by forging a new model for locally-driven, cooperative land management.
• Washington, D.C. – Capital Trails Coalition: In partnership with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, the co-op’s investment is supporting the work of the Capital Trails Coalition to complete a more than 500-mile, multi-use trail network in the Washington, D.C., region. This project will connect existing trails with new ones to provide outdoor recreation and alternative transportation to more communities.
To learn more about the co-op’s rewilding efforts, click here.