REI last week announced $603,000 in grants to foster outdoor recreation opportunities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Since 2015, REI has partnered with local nonprofits to help city-dwellers reconnect with nature; with the latest grants its total contribution to what it calls its "rewilding" effort totals $1.6 million, according to a company press release.
The projects include developing and/or improving areas for water paddling, hiking and cycling in parks, forests and trails in or near urban and suburban areas of the five U.S. cities.
"Rewilding" is a conservation term that usually refers to the reintroduction of wild animal species that have been driven out of their natural habitats, often by the encroachment of urban development.
But REI is borrowing the term to apply it to humans, which, especially in the U.S., are increasingly found in cities — and indoors. The average American spends 95% of their time indoors, REI says.
The benefits for cities in having more outdoor spaces are numerous, including helping to reduce pollution, mitigating storm damage and improving the public health of the general population. Earlier this year, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) found that spending on urban parks increased last year, but more work is needed to achieve its ultimate goal of having every resident within a 10-minute walk of a park.
"[O]ur goal is to reimagine how people connect with the outdoors while living in large metropolitan areas," Kristen Ragain, REI philanthropy and community partnership manager, said in a statement. "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."