It may be a coincidence, but it is still great timing for REI and the National Park Service.
This week REI, one of the largest outdoor gear and apparel companies in the U.S., announced it would support the National Park Service through a partnership with the National Park Foundation, the charity that helps to fund some of the programs in over 400 national parks. While an exact figure has not been given, REI says the level of commitment will run into the millions of dollars. No word on whether Sally Jewell, the Secretary of Interior who was previously the CEO of REI, had any involvement in this campaign, but the timing is excellent nonetheless.
The celebration started with the launch of Find Your Park, a public awareness campaign that not only commemorates 100 years of the National Park Service, but also seeks to inform citizens about ways in which they can enjoy the parks — and perhaps even enlighten them about one that is closer to them than they may think.
Of course, there is also a marketing component to REI’s support of the National Park Foundation. REI is the “official outdoor retailer” of this centennial celebration. And through at least 2017, REI will sell gear and market programs tailored for its partnership with the national parks at its stores as well as online. Some of the funds REI will funnel to the National Park Foundation will be through travel bookings made through its “Adventures” portal; the company will donate 10 percent of the retail price of booked trips to the foundation through 2016.
Despite the national parks’ economic impact (as in my hometown of Fresno, California, 90 minutes from three of them and where the city finally realized Fresno Yosemite International Airport was a better name than FAT), not to mention their stunning beauty and cultural significance, the last several years have been rough going for our parks. Despite an economic impact that ranges from US$26 billion to US$33 billion (depending on the source), adequate funding is always a battle for national parks year after year. According to the Washington Post, the National Park service has delayed about US$11.5 billion worth of maintenance projects because of budget shortfalls. Of course, with the rising cost of construction labor and materials, such problems will only worsen in the coming years if the parks cannot get the necessary federal funds.
When counting up the national parks budget woes, REI’s program may come across as little more than a Band-Aid. Nevertheless, it’s a Band-Aid that was not there previously, and REI’s funding will help aid programs that can enrich visitors’ experiences when they spend time in our national parks, one of America’s most stunning assets.
Image credit: Leon Kaye
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.