REI St. Louis has announced the recipients of its 2015 Stewardship Grants, which are awarded to select nonprofits that care for the outdoor places its customers use and love. The grant program is a grassroots process that begins with its store teams, who endorse nonprofits with whom they’ve forged meaningful partnerships. This year, local grants were awarded to The Ozark Trail Association ($15,000) and the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists ($5,000).

The Ozark Trail Association (OTA) exists to develop, maintain, preserve, promote and protect the rugged, natural beauty of the Ozark Trail. Funds from the REI grant will help to build the Round Spring section above the Current River, connecting the Ozark Trail to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and to two new Missouri State Park Units: Camp Zoe and Current River State Park. This addition to the Ozark Trail will create a gateway to the biologically diverse interior of Missouri Ozarks for day-hikers, backpackers, paddlers, and backcountry and river enthusiasts.

“We chose to fund this grant based on the strength of the proposal, the significant number of people and large amount of space this project will impact,” said Susie Stevenson, outdoor programs and outreach market coordinator for REI St. Louis. “Many of our REI members recreate on the Ozark Trails, and we offer classes that have a focus on the Ozark Highlands, further connecting people to outdoor spaces.”

The Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help facilitate, design and construct sustainable multi-use trails in Eastern Missouri and Western Illinois, with a focus on the St. Louis metropolitan area. GORC’s current project proposes to create better kiosks and new signage at a minimum of three outdoor parks, including but not limited to Greensfelder Park, Creve Coeur Park and Cliff Cave Park. By creating new and more visible signage, trail runners, hikers, cyclists, equestrians, orienteers and others will have a safer more enjoyable visit to these outdoor spaces.

“The GORC grant proposal was approved for the reason that they will improve and provide increased safety features in local parks,” said Stevenson. “Their proposal is not just for cyclists but will have a positive impact on many outdoor enthusiasts in the St Louis region.”