by Andrew Crisp
The Boise REI store has contributed to numerous nonprofit outdoors entities over the years. Their most recent gifts have been to the Idaho Trails Association, which utilizes an army of Idaho public land enthusiasts to dedicate man hours and muscle to clearing state and national forest trails. They also speak for a large following of hiking faithful, providing a voice on recreational issues.
REI awarded ITA $10,000, which they're applying to a 17-mile trail project in the Boise National Forest. Named the Wewukiye (wa-woo-kia) which will connect Warm and Tule Lakes, Stolle Meadows, a Chinook salmon viewing platform, a historic cabin and the Vulcan Hot Springs. Hikers, mountain bikers and backpackers alike will have access.
“This is an awesome organization, a state-wide trails organization is something we really need," said Tom Chelstrom, head manager of the Boise REI store. "Their business plan and what they wanted to do lined up perfectly with what we wanted to do."
With the money, ITA plans to organize a slew of volunteers, reward them with food, and—a first—purchase some of their own trail-clearing equipment. Formally, ITA had to borrow Forest Service tools. They're also working on other trail projects through donations from U.S. Forest Service Regional offices in Missoula and Ogden.
Back in November, REI headquarters put up $100,000 in cash for nonprofits across the nation. All a shopper had to do was check in at his/her local REI store with Places, a geo-location sharing service through Facebook (think: Gowalla, FourSquare). In 28 states, including Idaho, every check-in was worth $1 to a local non-profit outdoors organization. Halfway through December, the ante was upped to $50 with each check-in. The numbers on that are still being compiled; we'll know ITA's cut soon.
"The great news is that nationally we had enough people come in the store to give away $100,000 to nonprofits around the country," said Chelstrom.
Despite some initial hiccups (technical issues), the project was a success, according to Chelstrom.
"The world's changing and we need to change with it. So we tried something different and this Facebook Places program was that—something very different."