GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Employees of Recreational Equipment Incorporated have a say where their company's charitable contributions go.
Each year REI employees nominate local nonprofit organizations to receive grant money available from a percentage of the national outdoor equipment company's yearly profits. Corporate headquarters select from the nominees those known for their work preserving and maintaining natural spaces through active outdoor programs.
Four groups from the Grand Valley were awarded last month $5,000 each: Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA), the Colorado National Monument Association, Grand Mesa Nordic Council, and the Colorado Canyons Association.
The council grooms trails on Grand Mesa for skiers and snowshoers - an endeavor costing $60,000 a year, GMNC operations manager and volunteer coordinator Doug Conant said.
The group plans to build a "meandering" snowshoe trail through the woods to an overlook with views of the West Elk and San Juan Mountains, Conant said. The grant will also allow the group to purchase uniforms for a new trail host program on the mesa.
"We're pleased to have the support of REI," Conant said.
COPMOBA formed in 1989 to build, maintain and advocate for sustainable singletrack trails and bike features on the Colorado Plateau.
The group intends to use its money to build a developmental skills trail in the North Fruita Desert mountain biking area, near a Bureau of Land Management campground. The trail will be designed for beginners and will include signage modeled after Rustler's Loop on the Kokopelli Trail and Kid's Meal on the Lunch Loop.
The new trail's goal is to "educate riders of all ages on fundamental bike-handling, skills, trail etiquette and local flora, fauna and geology," COPMOBA coordinator Amy Agapito said.
REI plans to distribute $4.2 million in 2011, an increase of 13.5 percent over last year when it gave $3.7 million in grants to 320 organizations.
"Each year REI sets aside 3 percent of its operating profit to give" to local nonprofits, REI Grand Junction store manager Patrick Caraher said.
With its gift from REI, the Colorado National Monument Association will spruce up its Saddlehorn Campground on National Public Lands Day Sept. 24 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteers will refurbish 28 picnic tables and build a group campsite for up to 30 people, said CNMA operations manager Denise Hight.
A full list of REI's 2010 grant recipients is available at REI.com.