Outdoor Foundation, the organization dedicated to reversing the trend of decreased outdoor participation, has announced its second cohort of Thrive Outside communities. St. Louis was one of four communities named along with the Twin Cities region, Minnesota; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and the state of Maine.

The Thrive Outside St. Louis Community will be led by River City Outdoors, a local nonprofit working to build a vibrant outdoor culture and brand in the Greater St. Louis region by connecting the community to its outdoor assets.

River City Outdoors will work directly with the Outdoor Foundation’s Thrive Outside Initiative, which awards multi-year, capacity-building grants to diverse communities to build and strengthen networks that provide children and families with repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors. This community-led initiative is built with trusted local and national partners and is supported by three years of funding.

“We’ve been working for the past seven years to accelerate the outdoor recreation culture in the St. Louis region through Terrain Magazine, and now with River City Outdoors, we’re excited to gather that momentum and truly transform St. Louis into a vibrant, inclusive, outdoor community,” said Brad Kovach, editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine and River City Outdoors steering committee member.

Black People Who Hike

River City Outdoors will help outdoor community groups gain traction and build capacity. (Black People Who Hike)

River City Outdoors is activating an extensive network of community stakeholders dedicated to making outdoor recreational opportunities more accessible and equitable for their region. Their work is focused on five key initiatives:

  • Rivertime: Engaging St. Louisans in exploring their river assets. Partnering with St. Louis Public Schools to provide 6th and 7th graders with opportunities to paddle on one of the big rivers (Missouri or Mississippi) and engage in educational watershed programming while partnering with river groups to make the Missouri River more accessible and ultimately nationally recognized as a water trail.
  • Pedal Programs: Partnering with the Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League to develop youth mountain biking teams in north St. Louis County and south St. Louis City.
  • Outdoor Recreation Adventure Clubs: Partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis and other youth-focused organizations to develop long-term outdoor recreation programming for youth that includes rock climbing, paddling, camping, fishing, biking, and more.
  • Community Organization Accelerator: Helping diverse, grassroots outdoor community groups and events gain traction and build capacity by providing mentoring, education, marketing and fundraising support.
  • City Park/Neighborhood Beautification: Working with the City of St. Louis to invest in North City Parks and partner with four North City aldermen to increase the quantity and frequency of neighborhood clean-up and beautification events in order to create healthy and inviting outdoor environments for over 80,000 residents.

“The St. Louis region offers some of the most unique natural spaces and inspiring recreational opportunities anywhere. So, why hasn’t every kid in our community paddled past the Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River or pedaled a bike along the Katy Trail? Through River City Outdoors, we are activating an inclusive network of community partners that shatters barriers to access and empowers all St. Louisans to experience the transformative power of nature in our own backyard,” said Rachel Bartels, of River City Outdoors director.

“The Thrive Outside Initiative is working to create a more inclusive and accessible outdoor experience for all,” said Stephanie Maez, Outdoor Foundation executive director. “We are thrilled to expand our grants and programming into four additional communities this year and inspire kids and families to experience the powerful transformative benefits of connecting with nature on a regular basis, particularly among youth in diverse communities.”

The Thrive Outside Communities were chosen by the Outdoor Foundation Board of Directors, based on written applications, virtual site visits, in-person interviews and third-party consultant research. Each Thrive Outside Community grant requires the recipient community to provide a 1-to-1 funding match in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the network. One backbone organization in each community will manage the grant and facilitate the work of the network partners.