PROVIDENCE—The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) is working alongside the outdoor retailer REI Co-Op and America’s State Parks to encourage residents to work off any extra Thanksgiving pounds this Friday by opting out of the shopping and opting in to a trek in one of the state’s 15 state parks and 12 public use areas. Individuals and families are reminded that the state offers beautiful open spaces that can provide a healthier way to spend the holidays by exploring nature rather than standing in queue at a superstore.
“DEM is excited to participate in the #OptOutside initiative,” wrote DEM Director Janet Coit. “Rhode Island has an amazing array of historic parks and recreation areas throughout the state where residents and visitors can connect with nature and get active. What a healthy and fun way to spend Black Friday!”
Indeed, Rhode Island’s natural and public assets include 8,200 acres of parkland, 400 miles of hiking and biking trails, 25 parks and nature preserves, including the local Goddard Park, and eight saltwater beaches, and DEM is capitalizing on these resources as a healthy, stress-free alternative to crowded Black Friday shopping.
REI has closed its stores across the nation on Black Friday since 2015, encouraging its employees to instead participate in the #OptOutside initiative, in hopes of encouraging a healthier lifestyle and connection with the great outdoors. Additionally, though its stores may be closed, REI offers prizes to those people who post pictures of themselves participating in the event on the web. Further, participants this year are also being encouraged to involve themselves with community-oriented cleanup events and other efforts to preserve the state’s natural spaces. Those who would like to lend a helping hand, and possibly win a prize, can post their photos on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #OptOutside for a chance to win.
Everyone who posts a photo of a Rhode Island state park or wildlife management area and tags @RIStateParks and @REI while using the #OptOutside hashtag on Black Friday will be entered into the photo contest. The best photos that exemplify the spirit of #OptOutside will be awarded REI gift certificates for boat rentals at Lincoln Woods State Park and a grand prize will be given to the best photo that best portrays litter clean-up.
As part of a larger network of recreational opportunities in Rhode Island, state parks play an important role in supporting public health, attracting tourism, providing affordable staycation options for Rhode Island families and promoting a healthier environment. Rhode Island’s natural and public assets are community magnets, and attract more than 9 million Rhode Islanders and tourists a year. They’re also an engine that adds an estimated $315 million to the state economy annually, and generates nearly $40 million in state and local taxes and supporting nearly 4,000 jobs a year.
“Our collective decision to #OptOutside sparked a national conversation about choosing to be outdoors with family and friends over fighting it out in the aisles,” wrote REI CEO Jerry Stritzke on the company’s blog. “People everywhere–regardless of age, sex or race–embraced the transformative power of the outdoors. We saw national and state parks join the movement and experience record visits.”
Maintaining a coherency of values, the DEM has supported REI’s efforts in getting all those residents who enjoy the state’s parks, beaches and public outdoor spaces to do so responsibly by keeping them clean. As such, DEM also reminded Rhode Islanders this holiday season that it continues to promote a carry-in/carry-out trash policy that has been in effect since 1992. The policy encourages visitors to take personal responsibility, take their trash with them and leave no trace behind. Along with the National Park Service and most state park systems across the country, DEM believes this is a best practice that promotes conservation, fosters a sense of stewardship and leads to better visitor experiences.