Through the Rewilding Project, REI is investing big bucks into five metro cities and partnering with local organizations to reverse the indoor lifestyle.

A decade ago, hikers had dreams of building a 550-mile loop around the San Francisco Bay Area for millions of people to enjoy. With the support of REI, there’s less than 200 miles left to go.

“You can imagine the wonder and sense of accomplishment when people go end to end on the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail or any other scenic trails,” said Marc Berejka, REI community and government affairs director. “Our vision is to bring that type of wonder closer to the urban environment and creates one continuous circumference.”

This year, REI is investing $8.8 million in projects, outdoor places, and organizations that are increasing access to the outdoors—about $600,000 of that goes to the Rewilding Project. It's in its the third year of an initiative to bring the outdoors to city dwellers in the Bay Area, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

Another REI initiative to look out for: The cooperative debuted Product Sustainability Standards that will soon apply to more than 1,000 small and large brands sold by the outdoor retailer.

Americans are at risk of becoming an "indoor species," Berejka told SNEWS, and REI's goal is to bring the outdoors closer to people’s backyards and bring such deeply rewarding experiences closer to where people live in urban areas, in contrast to the great outdoors.

Whether or not REI will take on more cities is to be determined. The cooperative's initial commitment to the five cities was at least three years, but Berekjka said it could take longer. REI has partnered with a number of nonprofit partners positioned to support each project.

"Changing the recreation landscape of an urban area is no small undertaking," Berejka said. "One of the things I relish is we do take the long view."

To date, the Rewilding Project is the largest project REI has ever taken on in metro areas.

Here's a breakdown of each:

  • San Francisco Bay Area: Completing the 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail—370 miles are complete—which surrounds 8 million people
  • Los Angeles: Improving access to and enhancing outdoor recreation infrastructure at the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, which is located within an hour’s drive for 10 million people in the greater metro area
  • Chicago: Reimagining the southeast part of the city as an outdoor recreation hub just 25 minutes from the urban core, with a mountain bike park, trails, paddling, climbing and more
  • Washington D.C.: Creating a world-class network of multi-use trails that are equitably distributed throughout the metropolitan region, providing healthy, low-stress access to open space and reliable transportation for people of all ages and abilities
  • Seattle: Connecting the waterfront to South Park and Georgetown with a 15-mile mixed-use trail

Related

Balboa_Park_Botanical_Building_01

The top 10 greenest cities in the U.S.

Six of the top 10 greenest cities in the U.S. are in California, according to a new survey by WalletHub. The personal finance website ranked the 100 most populated cities based on the current health of the environment and residents’ environmental-friendliness.“San Diego has an ...read more

Decathlon grand opening in San Francisco

Decathlon debuts in the U.S.

A new store in San Francisco sells a 10-liter backpack in seven colors with a 10-year guarantee for $3.50. No joke. The product is designed, produced, and sold by Decathlon, a French sporting goods retailer operating more than 1,350 stores in 39 countries. And last week, it made ...read more

REI tent with sleeping bags inside

REI revamps used gear site

Chaco classic sandals for $50. Burton snowboard boots for $70. A The North Face parka for $138.No, these aren't items on Craigslist. These are listed on REI's used gear site, which received a facelift this week, plus new brands and more product categories. The revamp also ...read more

Wind Turbines in Turlock, California

Study: The greenest states in the U.S.

Vermont is doing the best at loving Mother Earth and West Virginia is doing the worst, according to a new survey by WalletHub that ranked all 50 states based on the current health of the environment and residents’ environmental-friendliness."Without a doubt, the bar for being ...read more