REI has announced its support of the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 through a multi-year, multimillion-dollar partnership with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. The partnership kicks off this week with the launch of Find Your Park, a public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service and setting the stage for the next 100 years.
Find Your Park invites the public to experience the rich offerings of national parks. Beyond vast landscapes, the campaign highlights historical, urban, and cultural parks, as well as National Park Service programs that protect, preserve and share nature, culture, and history in communities nationwide. Further, Find Your Park encourages people to find their own personal connections within the network of national parks and public lands. First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Laura Bush will serve as honorary co-chairs to promote the celebration of the 2016 centennial and to encourage people to connect with their favorite parks and public lands.
The campaign to connect national parks with the next generation comes at a critical time. According to a study conducted by Hall & Partners on behalf of the National Park Foundation, while approximately 80 percent of Americans have heard of the National Park Service, only 38 percent are at all familiar with the organization and all that they do. Other companies supporting Find Your Park include American Express, Budweiser, Subaru, Humana and Disney.
"There is something for everyone in our 407 national parks, whether it is the breathtaking landscapes or the historical and cultural sites that tell the story of our country," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "As we approach the centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, this is a perfect time for all Americans — especially young people — to Find Your Park, from neighborhood parks to national parks and all public lands in between."
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As Official Outdoor Retailer of the National Park Centennial celebration, REI — the nation’s largest consumer co-op — says its goal is to inspire, guide and outfit people with a passion to explore these national treasures more deeply.
“REI began in the national parks; 76 years ago our founders and their friends searched for an ice axe to climb Mount Rainier, and the co-op was born,” said REI president and CEO Jerry Stritzke. “Spending time in these treasured places often creates a deep and lasting connection with the outdoors. We’re incredibly lucky to have access to them, and part of REI’s job is to invest our resources into the places that inspire our members, and people everywhere, to enjoy their lives outside.”
Find Your Park encourages people to find their own personal connections within the network of national parks and public lands. Through 2017, REI plans to offer expanded gear and programs tailored for national parks through 140 stores and REI.com. To kick off Find Your Park, REI is also launching five new REI Adventures trips at national parks: hiking in Capitol Reef and Escalante, hiking and rafting in the Great Smokies, backpacking in the Rockies and kayaking in the Tetons. In honor of the National Park Service Centennial, REI Adventures will donate 10 percent of the retail price for each of its national park destinations to the National Park Foundation through 2016.
“REI is aiming to connect people everywhere, including our community of 5.5 million members, with America’s greatest natural spaces — in particular the hidden gems,” Stritzke said. “We’re channeling a good portion of our support for the centennial into stewarding these places so that their beauty can be enjoyed for generations.”
The Find Your Park campaign centers on the public invitation to share park experiences and memories at FindYourPark.com, which will feature an interactive gallery of stories from park lovers, National Park Service employees, and celebrities, as well as a searchable list of ideas for ways to find your park, including in-park and digital activities.
As digital forms of work and entertainment continue to keep most of us glued to our screens for the better part of the day, the importance of spending quality time outdoors, especially for children, has become a key concern. In 2013, the documentary Project Wild Thing explored the increasing disconnection between British children and the natural world around them (kids’ roaming distance from their homes has reportedly decreased a staggering 90 percent in the past 30 years). Luckily, parents are duly concerned, according to a global survey released by The Nature Conservancy in 2014, which captured not only how much time kids spend outside, but also parents’ perspectives on the importance and benefits of time spent in nature. The survey, funded by Disney, included parents of children aged three to 18 in the US, Brazil, China, France and Hong Kong and revealed that 65 percent of US parents see it as a “very serious” problem that kids are not spending more time outdoors. According to the survey, this is equal to their concerns about bullying, the quality of education and obesity.