REI St. Louis has announced the recipients of its 2014 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 ($10,000) and the Missouri Stream Team Watershed Coalition ($5,000).

“The Ozark Trail Association is honored to receive REI’s continuing support of our mission…building and maintaining over 360 miles of the Ozark Trail,” said Matt Atnip, president of the organization. “Thank you, REI!”

According to its grant application, the Ozark Trail Association (OTA) will use the funds to focus on continued rehabilitation of the Berryman Trail, which is more than 70 years old and has achieved International Mountain Bicycling Association “Epic Trail” status.

“This grand old trail, loved by many trail user groups, received upgrades on the western side, which is part of the Courtois section of the Ozark Trail,” said Atnip. “The OTA has adopted the entire loop, and trail users will now see similar improvements on the eastern side.”

“These, and the past efforts of the OTA, will allow pretty much every type of outdoor enthusiast a lot of recreation in one of the most beautiful parts of Missouri, as well as contribute to the overall OTA goal of a united trail from St. Louis to the Ozark Highlands Trail,” said Matt Russell, outdoor programs and outreach market coordinator for REI St. Louis.

The Missouri Stream Team Watershed Coalition (MSTWC) said in its grant application that it’s goal is to examine and improve the health of the River des Peres Watershed.

“[We are] excited to be awarded funding from REI to help further the protection and improvement of local waterways,” said Holly Neill, executive director of MSTWC. “Stewardship activities completed with this funding will engage the recreation community in efforts that will positively impact the River Des Peres watershed and the recreational opportunities it holds.

“We look forward to working with our partners the River Des Peres Watershed Coalition, REI and the recreational community to make this project a success,” she added.

According to its grant application, the MSTWC will use the funds to recruit volunteers to conduct a study of wildlife, water quality and pollutants in the River des Peres watershed. This information will give a firm starting point for the long-term goals of a cleaner watershed, as well as health and recreation benefits for area enthusiasts.

The River des Peres Watershed contains the water for nearly all of St. Louis County, from Gravois and Martiginey creeks in the south to University City in the north. (You can download a map of the watershed here:

“Most of the Great Rivers Greenways, including Grant’s Trail, are adjacent to waterways within the watershed,” said Russell. “So, improving the watershed will improve area recreation in addition to being the right thing to do for our environment.”

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor of Terrain Magazine